Vaccines for Adults

Written by Amy Boulanger | Published on November 6, 2014
Medically Reviewed by Brenda B. Spriggs, MD, MPH, MBA on November 6, 2014

Adult Vaccination Schedule

Vaccinations aren’t just for children. Adults also need protection against diseases.

There are several reasons people may need to be vaccinated against a disease as an adult:

  • They weren’t vaccinated as a child.
  • The childhood vaccine may have worn off.
  • The vaccine isn’t needed until later in life.
  • The vaccine changes on a regular basis.

All adults should talk to their doctors about vaccinations. At minimum, almost everyone needs a flu vaccine once a year.

Influenza (Flu)

Different strains of flu affect people every year. That’s one reason you need to get a flu vaccine annually. Each year, the vaccine is designed to protect against the types of influenza virus expected to be most common.

Getting a flu shot helps keep you healthy during the winter flu season. The flu season can start as early as September. It can last through May.

Tetanus

Tdap is a vaccine that protects against:

  • tetanus
  • diphtheria
  • pertussis

Most people are vaccinated against these diseases in childhood. However, the protection can wear off. Therefore, teens usually get one dose of Tdap between the ages of 11 and 18. A second Tdap should then be given between ages 19 and 64. After that, a Td booster shot should be given every 10 years.

You may also need a booster if there is a risk you have been exposed to tetanus.

Varicella (Chickenpox)

If you never had chickenpox as a child, you may want to get the varicella vaccine. Chickenpox can be a serious illness in adults.

The varicella vaccine is given in two doses. Talk to your doctor about whether it’s a good choice for you.

MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella)

If you were born in 1957 or later, you need at least one dose of this vaccine. However, most people born in the United States are given the MMR vaccine as children.

Consult with your doctor to determine if you need to get an adult MMR.

Pneumococcal

All adults over age 65 should get one dose of the pneumococcal vaccine. This vaccine protects against infections caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae.

This vaccine is also recommended for certain other groups of adults, including people with:

  • long-term health problems
  • compromised immune systems
  • asthma
  • a history of smoking

High-risk individuals should get one or two doses of the vaccine. It can be given any time after age 2.

Hepatitis Vaccines

Vaccines are available to protect people against hepatitis A and hepatitis B. These vaccines are generally offered to adults at high risk of infection. The hepatitis B vaccine is given in three doses over six months. The hepatitis A vaccine is given in two doses over six to 18 months.

Individuals can also choose to be vaccinated for hepatitis. The vaccines are very safe. They are currently recommended as standard childhood vaccinations. However, many adults have never received them.

Herpes Zoster (Shingles)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in every three Americans will develop shingles. Shingles is caused by a reemergence of the virus that causes chickenpox (varicella zoster virus).

The onetime shingles vaccine is recommended for adults over age 60. You should get the vaccine even if you had chickenpox as a child.

Certain individuals are more at risk for developing shingles. In particular, the disease often affects people with compromised immune systems. This includes people with cancer or HIV. Shingles is also more likely to affect those using steroids or immunosuppressants.

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