Abby Bartz, C.N.P.
You're not a kid anymore, so you don't have to worry about shots, right?
You never outgrow the need for vaccines to protect you against disease. Vaccines are safe, and the risk of side effects is low. But if you have questions about them or any special health concerns, talk with your health care professional.
Recommendations for adult vaccines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are based on your age, prior vaccinations, health, lifestyle, occupation, travel destinations and sexual activity.
Don't know which one you need? Your electronic health record contains scheduled vaccines, and reminds your health care professional to offer shots that are due when you're in the clinic.
Typically, adults should receive these vaccinations:
- Flu (influenza)
To prevent the flu, the CDC recommends annual flu vaccination for everyone ages 6 months or older. Adults 50 and older should not get the nasal spray flu vaccine. The flu can cause serious complications in older adults.
The CDC recommends pneumococcal vaccinations — there are two — for adults 65 and older. Younger adults at increased risk for pneumococcal disease also might need a dose of the vaccine. Pneumococcal disease causes infections such as pneumonia and meningitis, as well as bloodstream infections.
- Tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap)
One dose of Tdap is routinely given at ages 11 or 12. If you've never had a Tdap vaccination, the CDC recommends getting this vaccination as soon as possible. One dose of Tdap vaccine also is recommended during each pregnancy, ideally between weeks 27 and 36 of pregnancy. Tdap can protect you from tetanus (lockjaw), whooping cough (pertussis) and diphtheria, which can lead to breathing problems. A Tdap booster is recommended every 10 years.
To prevent shingles, the CDC recommends a Shingrix vaccination for healthy adults 50 and older. It's given in two doses. While not life-threatening, shingles can be painful. This is a newer recommendation, but it is widely covered by insurance.
The CDC recommends the HPV vaccination for boys and girls ages 11 or 12. Teens and young adults who begin the vaccination series later, at ages 15 through 26, should continue to receive three doses of the vaccine. The Food and Drug Administration also has approved the HPV vaccine Gardasil 9 for males and females ages 9 to 45. HPV is a common virus that can lead to several types of cancers, including cervical, vaginal, anal, head and neck, and certain oral cancers.
A COVID-19 vaccination, along with booster vaccinations, might prevent you from getting COVID-19, or from becoming seriously ill or dying due to COVID-19.
As an adult, you may need a measles vaccination if you're at increased risk of this contagious virus, such as if you're attending college, traveling internationally or working in a hospital environment, and you don't have presumptive evidence of immunity. This evidence includes written documentation of your vaccinations or lab confirmation of immunity or previous illness. Those born before 1957 typically have presumptive evidence of immunity because they probably have had this virus. Measles can lead to pneumonia, encephalitis and pregnancy problems.
If you're not sure which vaccinations you've already had, good sources for that information are your current and former health care professionals, parents, caregivers, schools and employers. Your state health department also may have a registry that tracks adult vaccinations.