A Quick Guide to Boosting your Immunity!

A couple months ago the Women Thinking Free Foundation elected a few new cohorts to the board including Ashley Hamer (aka Smashley) of Mad Art Lab fame, Katie Hovany, and myself. Since then we have managed to plan a Tdap vaccination clinic at TAM in conjunction with the JREF, so get excited and come say hello to the WTF in Vegas this summer!

The skeptical community is pro-vaccination, but it is surprising that even skeptical adults (19 and over) are unaware of the necessity for booster shots. So let's give our immunity a little boost! 

Here is a brief overview of adult vaccinations: 

Flu vaccine: This vaccine is recommended for all adults. Double check with your doctor if over the age of 65 as the risks can increase. This should be administered in the fall or winter once every year. Generally, adults are familiar with this vaccine as it is readily advertised and often required by employers. 

PPSV (Pneumococcal Polysaccharid) : A booster vaccine is recommended if over the age of 65 or for younger people with a high risk of pneumoniae. 

MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella): People born after 1957 usually administered this vaccine sometime after their first birthday. People born before 1957 are generally considered immune. Usually, proof of this vaccine is necessary for beginning college or work in the health care profession. Once vaccine is administered, then a booster shot can be necessary for high risk groups. 

Varicella (Chicken pox): All adults without evidence of immunity should receive this vaccine. Many of us had chicken pox growing up as children because the vaccine didn't exist yet. Make sure you have antibodies protecting you from this disease because it is often more dangerous in adults. 

Zoster (Shingles): Suggested for adults 60 years of age and older. 

Hepatitis A: Suggested for all adults traveling for work anywhere EXCEPT the US, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Western Europe, and Japan. It is also suggested for people with chronic liver disease or people expecting to spend an extended period of time with an international adoptee. This vaccine is generally NOT required by schools, so you may not have it. So make sure you get it. 

Hepatitis B: This is generally a required vaccination for schools. However, it is recommended for high risk individuals to boost their immunity. Particularly this applies to people with many sexual partners and gay men.



Polio: This is not generally given to US, Western European, Australian, Canadian, and Japanese citizens over the age of 18. 

HPV: Women should get this vaccine if they are between the ages of 18 and 26 (recall this is specifically discusisng adult vaccinations) and men between 18-21.

Menningococcal (Meningitis): Administer to first year college students particularly those planning on living in a dorm. Also, a booster shot is recommended if traveling to areas where the disease is still of epidemic status. 

Td, Tdap (Tetanus, diphtheria, and Pertusis): This is the vaccine we will be administering at TAM. This is when getting a booster shot is SUPER IMPORTANT! Before 2007, this vaccine did not have the pertussis component.  Pertussis is whooping cough and we are in the midst of a serious outbreak. Adults are generally the culprits responsible for spreading the epidemic, so get vaccinated. Also, It should be given for wound management, during pregnancy, and once every 10 years

So again, come see us at TAM for your Tdap booster shot! If you are not going to TAM, then go see your doctor! Be sexy, get vaccinated. Remember boosting your immunity, also boosts everyone else's immunity. 


***Disclaimer: I am NOT a medical doctor. Check with your doctor and vaccination history before administering the vaccines. Also, if you have not received or are unsure of your vaccination status for each of these vaccines, then it is generally suggested to administer each of these.*** 


Jacqueline, a true Floridian, wandered up to the tundra of Athens, Georgia to receive her PhD in computational quantum chemistry. Returning to her roots, she is currently working as a postdoctoral researcher in Tampa in the field of computational biochemistry investigating the wonders of penicillin-like drugs. When she is not slaving over the computer, her varied interests include international travel, Brazilian jiu jitsu, kickboxing, fancy food, (American) football, and Belgian quadrupels. She is also the founder of, a football blog with an exclusive female writing staff. Check out her sports ramblings there or follow her on Twitter @jhargis9.

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  1. Since I am an asthmatic, my doctor had me get the pneumonia vaccine. (As a married woman in my late twenties, I suspect she was also trying to make sure that I got that vaccination before getting pregnant.)
    If you have a respiratory disease, you are likely considered high risk, and you should talk to your doctor about PPSV. I am not a doctor, so you should obviously go by what your doctor tells you.

  2. Great reminders. I almost died from whooping cough as a child because my mom was afraid to get me vaccinated. I also had chicken pox as an adult (the vaccine was not widely available at the time) NOT FUN. In college I worked part time in a nursing home and they required I get the Hep B vaccine, I'm also vaccinated for rabies since I work with wild animals. That last one is fun because you can play with stray cats and not worry when they bite the hell out of you (kidding, but it is nice to have protection from such a nasty virus).

  3. There is some evidence that women considering pregnancy might need to get their Rubella immunity checked prior to conception.  Because of increasing refusal of the MMR vaccine and similar vaccines worldwide, pregnant women–who are inherently immunocompromised–may be at increased risk.  Rubella has SERIOUS consequences for the gestating fetus.  Following a vaccination for Rubella, women should avoid pregnancy for a full menstrual cycle.

    1. I sympathize, I have some autoimmune issues as well. Every type is unique, but sadly most of the medications are symptom-killers that only stop the symptoms and do not address why the autoimmune disease is happening. Hopefully research will help resolve this.

  4. The article wasn't quite what I expected! I thought it would be about the various claims that are made regarding this subject.
    Perhaps it should say "A Quick Guide to (Actually) Boosting your Immunity!"
    Anyway, it's a good guide indeed. And perhaps as a followup, a guide as to where to get these done at for an inexpensive price can be added.
    A dumb question here; it says men ages 18 to 21 should get the HPV vaccination. What it you haven't gotten it are are over that age (in my case, by about a decade)?

    1. Gardasil, the HPV vaccine, only got approved in 2006 so this limits many people. Even then it was only for use by girls and young women. From the Gardasil website and it has a different recommendation than the vaccine resources I used. It can be used for men up to the age of 26. If you are over that age range, the CDC does not recommend it. To be honest, I am not sure for the reasoning behind this (i.e. safety, societal norms, etc.). I could speculate, but don't feel comfortable doing so. 

      1. Thanks for the info!
        I suppose in the future, testing may allow for age increases.

      2. I think it’s just a matter of what group was included in the testing. So, if a vaccine was tested on 18 to 25 year olds, the CDC can’t recommend it for 45 yos. At least, that’s the reasoning that was given to me when I asked why I can’t get the Zoster vaccine yet (since I happen to know several people who got shingles below the age of 60, and it did not sound like any fun at all).

  5. I've been told, by several doctors, that it's a good idea, if you a compromised immune system (I do), you should get the PPSV at least two years in a row, that the second injection builds upon the foundation of the first. I don't know if this is exactly true; does anyone here know?

    Personally, I've had the PPSV at least  a half dozen times over the last 24 years, ever since I was diagnosed with leukemia and had a splenectomy. I've also had pneumonia several times in that period, so PPSV isn't a guarantee. Usually the pneumonia came on top of already having flu or some other virus that weakened my system even more.

    In the fall of 2009 I got the H1N1 shot, but not soon enough, about two weeks later I came down with H1N1 anyway. A FB friend who's anti-Vac suggested I got it from the vaccine… yeah, right.

    1. Hi McSkeptic!
      I have a compromised immune system from immunosuppresants (methotrexate), are most vaccines safe for us? I know I was told that the Guardasil vaccine was not recommended for me with my health condition, but I’m curious about what other vaccines you’ve been able to get safely? Thanks!

  6. One question/note about this part:
    "Particularly this applies to people with many sexual partners and gay men."
    When you mention that it applies to gay men, I am going to assume that the actual increased risk comes from anal sex. Is this correct?
    If so, it'd probably be more accurate to say "men who have sex with men" or (preferably) "people who have anal sex (regularly?)", considering that not all gay men (even 'men who have sex with men') do anal,  and not all people who do anal are gay men.
    Otherwise it's misleading and tends to imply that the risk comes from the homosexuality itself, which is, well… problematic, for multiple reasons.
    I know you didn't mean to imply that of course, just a heads up.
    That aside, great post. It'd be nice if lists like these were more widely available (like, perhaps, on giant posters in doctor's offices…) but atleast now the info is more public than before!

    1. Thanks for clearing that up. I wrote that and paused and then paused longer. I was unsure of the best way to write that bit. 

      Glad you enjoyed the general content though. 

  7. Well, I just wanted to let y'all know that my increased interest in skepticism of late (meaning, basically, I'm working long hours in the lab and listening to a lot of podcasts while data processing!) has directly correlated to my updating my vaccinations a few months ago: mainly I was having so much fun making fun of people who don't get vaccines for nutty "philosophical" reasons (I use that term loosely), that I realized that I wasn't necessarily any better that I hadn't gotten a year's worth of shots out of sheer laziness…but, I decided that my enjoyment of laughing along with Rebecca about anit-vaxxers on SGU (and here!) outweighed the inconvenience of actually walking over to Student Health. So, flu in one arm, Tdap in the other, and laughing at anti-vaxxers with a clear conscience!!
    So, congratulations, guys, you really do make a difference!!

    1. Ditto! I also dragged my boyfriend along. We're up to date with all our necessary shots. I work with a lot of antivaxers and part of my reasoning for getting my shots (aside from how awesome it is not to have to get a disease to get immunity) was to practice what I preached about vaccination.
      Also, I was on high dose steroids for most of my childhood and relied on herd immunity to keep me safe. It's only fair that I return the favour now.

  8. My grandmother (103 in a few months) has had problems with shingles.  Do you know if the vaccine might help her, or do you have to get it before you're exposed to the virus?
    As for myself, I joined the US Army reserves a couple years ago and they updated alot of my shots.  I'll have to find out what I got and what I need.

  9. HepB is generally required for school now. It wasn't required when I was in high school and was barely "recommended" when I went to undergrad in 1996. So those who haven't started a course of study this millennium are unlikely to be vaccinated and should seriously consider going in for it. If you don't have documentation but think you've had the full course, there's a single blood draw test for the antigen which is easier than going through all three again.

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