Age Groups and Vaccines: Adults
What vaccines might I need?
- Annual influenza vaccine
- Tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis (Tdap) for all adults especially those who will be around young babies and children, and then tetanus and diphtheria booster (Td) every 10 years.
Pregnant women are recommended to get the Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy between 27 and 36 weeks’ gestation. Although any time during this window is acceptable, public health officials recommend getting the vaccine as early as possible during this window. Pregnant women who do not receive the vaccine during pregnancy should still get a dose before being discharged from the hospital.
- Varicella (chickenpox) for adults who did not have the disease or a previous immunization
- Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) for adults less than 50 years old who did not have the diseases or a previous immunization
Adults 26 years of age or younger
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine; it is given in three doses for those starting the vaccine series at 15 years of age or older.
Adults 50 and older
- Two doses of Shingrix® separated by two to six months or one dose of Zostavax® shingles vaccine (Note: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expresses a preference for Shingrix due to better protection induced by that version.)
Adults 65 years and older
- Pneumococcal vaccine; doses and versions needed depend upon previous pneumococcal vaccination history; check with your doctor to determine your specific needs
Other vaccines you might need
Other vaccines that may be recommended depending on your risk factors (e.g., age, lifestyle, or medical conditions) include hepatitis B, hepatitis A, and the meningococcal vaccine. Additionally, there are recommendations for pneumococcal vaccines in the adult age groups not mentioned above.
You can learn more by reviewing the schedule developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
When should I get the vaccines?
The best time to get the vaccines is when you are getting your regular physical exam. However, if you are in the office for a mild illness or condition, you can talk to your doctor about receiving the vaccines at a follow-up appointment or by scheduling a special visit.
The influenza vaccine is the only vaccine that needs to be given at a particular time of the year. While this vaccine can be given anytime between October and April, you should plan to get the vaccine before influenza begins circulating in your community because protection takes about two weeks to develop after immunization.
Where can I get vaccines?
The best place to get vaccines is at your doctor's office because it will be part of your medical record. However, you can always notify your doctor's office if you receive a vaccine elsewhere. It is also useful for you to maintain your own immunization record.
Other places that offer vaccines include public health departments and clinics. In many cases, pharmacies also offer vaccines. Your doctor and local health department are the best resources for information on where to get the vaccine.
Why doesn't my doctor suggest that I get vaccines?
Many doctors are very good at asking about your vaccination status during a physical or routine check-up. However, most adults only go to the doctor when they are having a specific health issue, so the doctor is often focused on figuring out what is going on with you at that time and may fail to mention vaccines. This is one reason that it is so important for you and your doctor to work together to make sure that you have received the vaccines that you require.
Will my insurance cover vaccines?
Not all insurance companies will pay for all vaccines, so it is important to check with your insurer as to their specific policies. That said, many insurers will cover vaccines that are recommended because it is in their best interest financially. It is much more economical for them to pay for a vaccine than to pay for your treatment or hospitalization from the disease.
If your insurance company does not cover a vaccine that you require, there are some other options. First, check with your employee health or human resources department. Many employers will cover vaccines if you are at risk for the disease through your occupational activities. For vaccines like influenza, it is often more economical for them to offer the vaccine than to have you miss work with the illness. Second, check with your local health department. Even if they can't direct you to a resource for a free vaccine, they may be able to tell you where you can get the vaccine at a reduced rate. Finally, check your local pharmacies. They may have competitive pricing or incentives for vaccinations as they are hoping you will come to them and not their competitor to be vaccinated.
About the shingles vaccine
In October 2006, a federal advisory committee to the CDC recommended a shingles vaccine, called Zostavax, to help protect people from getting shingles. In October 2017, a new version called Shingrix became available and was preferentially recommended because it induces better protection against both the rash and severe, long-lasting pain caused by the disease. The vaccine is recommended for adults 50 years of age and older. While only one dose of Zostavax is required, Shingrix requires two doses separated by two to six months.
Shingles is caused by a reactivation or reawakening of a chickenpox infection that could have occurred years or decades before. When the old chickenpox infection reawakens, it travels down the nerves and causes a rash and severe pain. The pain often lasts longer than three months and is one of the most debilitating pains in medicine. Sometimes shingles affects the eye and causes blindness. Shingles affects about 1 million Americans every year.
How do I know what vaccines I received?
Many factors can contribute to whether or not you got a certain vaccine including, among others, whether it was required, whether your doctor had it, and whether your parents took you to get it.
To know which vaccines you received, you should try to locate your immunization record. The Immunization Action Coalition (IAC) has some tips for doing so on their website.
If you are not able to locate your records, you may be able to get a blood test to help determine the diseases to which you are immune. In some cases, your healthcare provider may simply recommend getting the vaccines since an extra dose would not be harmful.
Materials in this section are updated as new information and vaccines become available. The Vaccine Education Center staff regularly reviews materials for accuracy.
You should not consider the information in this site to be specific, professional medical advice for your personal health or for your family's personal health. You should not use it to replace any relationship with a physician or other qualified healthcare professional. For medical concerns, including decisions about vaccinations, medications and other treatments, you should always consult your physician or, in serious cases, seek immediate assistance from emergency personnel.