Even if you had vaccinations as a child, that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t follow up as a young adult. During adolescence and young adulthood, there is an increased risk of developing meningitis, inflammation of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord. Meningococcal meningitis is caused by the bacterial infection, meningococcal disease.

Meningococcal disease, which is highly contagious, is spread either through the air (via coughing and sneezing) or directly from one person to another (through kissing). The CDC reports that “college freshmen, especially those who live in dormitories, are at a slightly increased risk for bacterial meningitis.”  Although the disease affects all ages, college students living in dorms are more at-risk because of a shared living space that may also involve risk factors such as smoking (or proximity to it), unhealthy sleep habits, and living in a crowded environment.

College freshmen who will be living in a dorm, individuals between the ages of 19 and 26 are encouraged to get the following vaccinations. 

Meningococcal

As described above, this vaccine is recommended for students planning to attend college and live in a dormitory, as well as for individuals with certain medical conditions. Booster shots may be required through adulthood, and can be determined by speaking with your doctor. 

Influenza (Flu)

Even as an adult, annual flu immunization is recommended every fall or winter (the season is typically between September and January).

Tetanus

The CDC recommends that everyone receive one dose of Tdap between age 11 to 18 (preferably at age 11-12 years) and then once again between ages 19 and 64. Following the initial dose, a booster shot is recommended every 10 years, or after exposure to tetanus in some cases. For a while now, typical booster shots were one dose of Td (which only protects against tetanus and diphtheria. However, new evidence shows that pertussis is actually on the rise because of waning vaccine efficacy among adults. For this reason, some medical professionals are recommending a full Tdap booster every 10 years.

*What the letters mean:  DTaP, Tdap, and Td are all similar vaccinations given for the same diseases at various times in a person’s life. Depending on age, certain amounts of each of the vaccine’s components are administered. The lettering system and upper/lower cases denote the component of the vaccination and the amount that’s included within. As the CDC explains, Upper-case letters in these abbreviations denote full-strength doses of diphtheria (D) and tetanus (T) toxoids and pertussis (P) vaccine. Lower-case “d” and “p” denote reduced doses of diphtheria and pertussis used in the adolescent/adult-formulations. The “a” in DTaP and Tdap stands for “acellular,” meaning that the pertussis component contains only a part of the pertussis organism.”

Varicella (Chickenpox)

You may want to consider vaccination if you never received it as a child or never had chickenpox as a child. Your doctor will help you determine if you need to get the vaccine.

Pneumococcal

Protects against pneumococcal disease (an infection caused by the bacteria, Streptococcus pneumoniae). If you’re a smoker or have certain chronic conditions, it’s recommended that you get one to two doses.

HepB

HepB vaccine is given in three doses, over 6 months, for at-risk individuals for hepatitis B or for people who want to be protected.

HepA

HepA vaccine is generally given in two doses, 6 to 18 months apart, for at-risk individuals for hepatitis A or for people who want to be protected. You should be tested for hepatitis antibodies (called a titer test) before getting this vaccine; most people are unknowingly exposed to hepatitis A and have the ability to fight it off.

HPV

The HPV vaccine protects against human papillomavirus; women 26 years old or younger should get the vaccine, which is given in three doses over 6 months. Cervarix is licensed for use in women between the ages of 10 to 25, as well as Gardasil for females between the ages of 9 to 26. For men, age 26 or younger, Gardasil can protect against genital warts.