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Grown-ups need shots too

A healthcare provider gives a woman a shot in a doctor's office. Illustration.

Your doctor can help you figure out if you're up-to-date on your vaccinations.

Immunizations aren't just for children. Adults need protection from infectious diseases too.

And that means rolling up your sleeve for a shot.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends some vaccines for all adults and others for adults with specific risk factors.

Influenza

Influenza, usually called the flu, is highly contagious. It causes a variety of symptoms, but the virus tends to change each flu season, making a new vaccine and a yearly flu shot necessary.

The flu vaccine is a good idea for almost anyone who wants to reduce the risk of getting sick. CDC recommends that people ages 6 months and older receive the flu vaccine each year. Vaccination is especially important for people who are at high risk for serious flu complications. This includes:

  • Young children.
  • Pregnant women.
  • People with chronic health conditions, like asthma, diabetes, heart disease and lung disease.
  • People 65 years and older.

Vaccination is also important for people who live with or care for anyone at high risk for serious flu complications.

If you have any questions about whether to get a flu shot this year, ask your doctor.

COVID-19

COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Some people who get COVID-19 don’t have symptoms or have only mild symptoms. But some people get very sick. COVID-19 can cause very serious illness—or death.

All adults should be vaccinated against COVID-19. It’s important to stay up-to-date with boosters too. The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. And they are available at no cost to you. You can get your COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as other vaccines.

Tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough

The Td vaccine protects against tetanus (sometimes called lockjaw) and diphtheria (a bacterial disease affecting the throat and windpipe). Another vaccine, called Tdap, also includes protection against pertussis, or whooping cough. CDC recommends that adults get a booster shot of the Td or Tdap vaccines every 10 years. You may need the booster sooner if you have a severe cut or puncture wound.

Pregnant women should get the Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy. The Tdap vaccine is especially important for everyone who will be around infants.

Pneumococcal disease

Pneumococcal bacteria can cause a number of infections, including those affecting the lungs (pneumonia), the blood (bacteremia) or the covering of the brain (meningitis).

There are different types of pneumococcal vaccine available. Some people need more than one shot. Your healthcare provider or pharmacist can help make sure you get the right vaccine.

CDC recommends a pneumococcal vaccine for all adults age 65 and older.

You may need to be vaccinated earlier or receive additional doses if you have certain risk factors, such as smoking, or if you have medical conditions including:

  • Lung disease.
  • Heart disease, liver disease or diabetes.
  • Alcoholism.
  • A weakened immune system.

Hepatitis B

CDC recommends the hepatitis B vaccine for all adults ages 19 to 59. People over 60 might also benefit from this vaccine if they have certain risk factors. Those include:

  • People with chronic liver disease.
  • People with HIV.
  • Sexually active adults who are not in a mutually monogamous relationship.
  • Men who have sex with men.
  • People who live with or have sex with someone who has hepatitis B.
  • Adults being evaluated or treated for sexually transmitted infections.
  • Current or recent injection-drug users.
  • Safety and health professionals who ever have contact with blood.
  • People who are incarcerated.

The vaccine is also recommended for certain international travelers and people living in countries where hepatitis B is common.

Human papillomavirus (HPV)

CDC recommends the HPV vaccine through age 26 for all people who did not complete the full series of shots in adolescence. If you are between the ages of 27 and 45 and you have not been vaccinated for HPV, ask your healthcare provider if the vaccine might be right for you.

Shingles

Healthy adults 50 years and older should get two doses of the recombinant zoster vaccine (Shingrix).

Hepatitis A

You can choose to be vaccinated against hepatitis A even if you do not have risk factors, according to CDC. But people at risk for this disease include:

  • Pregnant women at increased risk for infection or severe illness from hepatitis A, such as those traveling internationally or at risk for exposure at work.
  • People with chronic liver disease.
  • Everyone 1 year and older infected with HIV.
  • Men who have sex with men.
  • People who use illegal drugs.
  • Anyone in settings in which many adults have risk factors for hepatitis A infection, such as group homes.
  • Laboratory workers who work with hepatitis A or with animals that have it.
  • People planning travel to countries where hepatitis A is common.
  • Children ages 6 to 11 months who will be traveling internationally.
  • People in households with an adopted child from a country where hepatitis A is common.
  • People experiencing homelessness.

Other vaccines

Depending on your age, health, career, vaccination history and risk factors, your doctor may recommend vaccines for:

  • Chickenpox (varicella).
  • Measles, mumps and rubella.
  • Meningococcal disease.
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b.

For travelers

If you are planning to travel outside the country, check with your doctor at least four weeks in advance about required and recommended immunizations. Diseases that aren't considered a risk in the United States are still common in other parts of the world.

Immunization diary

It's a good idea to keep a record of your immunizations. Write down the date you had each shot so that you'll know when you need an update.

Reviewed 7/21/2022

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Disclaimer

This information is provided for educational purposes only. Individuals should always consult with their healthcare providers regarding medical care or treatment, as recommendations, services or resources are not a substitute for the advice or recommendation of an individual's physician or healthcare provider. Services or treatment options may not be covered under an individual's particular health plan.