Vaccines for adults: Which do you need?

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Vaccines for adults: Which do you need?

You're not a kid anymore, so you don't have to worry about shots, right? Wrong. Use this guide to find out which vaccines you need now and which vaccines might be coming up — based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Routine recommendations for healthy adults are listed by age. Read on for recommendations for special groups, such as people with chronic illnesses, and to learn more about each vaccine.

Ages 19 to 26

  • Influenza vaccine once a year
  • Tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine if not previously vaccinated, plus additional dose during pregnancy
  • Tetanus-diphtheria toxoids (Td) booster every 10 years
  • Varicella vaccine if not previously vaccinated or not immune
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine if not previously vaccinated
  • Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) if not previously vaccinated or not immune
  • Meningococcal vaccine for first-year college students living in residence halls if vaccine wasn't given on or after age 16

Ages 27 to 59

  • Influenza vaccine once a year
  • Tdap vaccine if not previously vaccinated, plus additional dose during pregnancy
  • Td booster every 10 years
  • MMR vaccine if not previously vaccinated or not immune

Ages 60 to 64

  • Influenza vaccine once a year
  • Tdap vaccine if not previously vaccinated
  • Td booster every 10 years
  • Zoster vaccine

Ages 65 and older

  • Influenza vaccine once a year
  • Tdap vaccine if not previously vaccinated
  • Td booster every 10 years
  • Zoster vaccine if not previously vaccinated
  • Pneumococcal vaccine

Influenza

Influenza (flu) is a viral infection that affects the respiratory system. Potentially serious — even life-threatening — complications of the flu are possible. Yearly vaccination is recommended for all adults.

Get the flu vaccine each year in September or as soon as it becomes available. The vaccine can be given as a shot in the muscle or under the skin. It can also be given as a nasal spray in some cases. If you're pregnant, choose the flu shot — not the nasal spray, which contains the live, attenuated influenza vaccine. If you're age 65 or older, ask your doctor about a high-dose flu shot.

Don't get the flu vaccine if you've had a severe reaction to it in the past. Consult your doctor before getting the vaccine if you've had Guillain-Barre syndrome after a previous flu vaccination or you have a severe allergy to eggs. If you are moderately or severely ill — with or without fever — wait until you're recovered before getting the vaccine.

Pneumococcal disease

Pneumococcal disease is a potentially serious infection caused by a type of bacteria called pneumococcus. Pneumococcal disease can take various forms, including pneumonia and meningitis. Pneumococcus also causes infections in the bloodstream.

Get the pneumococcal polysaccharide (PPSV23) vaccine if you're 65 or older, or you have any of the following risk factors:

  • You have a weakened immune system, including HIV infection.
  • You have a chronic illness, including heart disease, asthma, lung disease, kidney disease, liver disease, sickle cell disease or diabetes.
  • You've had your spleen removed.
  • You live in a long-term care facility.
  • You smoke or have alcoholism.
  • You have cochlear implants.

If for any reason you received one or two doses of PPSV23 before age 65 years, you should get another dose of the vaccine at age 65 years or later if it's been at least five years since your previous dose.

People with weakened immune systems or chronic illnesses may need the PPSV23 vaccine and the pneumococcal conjugate 13-valent (PCV13) vaccine. Ask your doctor if this recommendation applies to you.

Don't get the pneumococcal vaccine if you had a severe reaction to a previous dose. Delay getting the vaccine if you're currently ill with an infection.

Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis

Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis are bacterial infections. Tetanus, sometimes called lockjaw, affects the nervous system, leading to painful muscle contractions — especially in the jaw and neck. Diphtheria is a respiratory disease that can lead to difficulty breathing, especially in children. Pertussis is commonly known as whooping cough and causes a persistent hacking cough.

Get the combined tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine if you haven't received the vaccine in the past or aren't sure if you've received it. Pregnant women should receive a dose of Tdap vaccine with each pregnancy, ideally between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. All adults should have a tetanus-diphtheria toxoids (Td) booster every 10 years.

Don't get the Tdap vaccine if you had a severe reaction to a previous dose of Tdap or Td vaccine, or you experienced a coma or seizures within seven days of a previous dose of the vaccine. Delay getting the vaccine if you're currently ill. Consult your doctor before getting Tdap if you have epilepsy or you've had Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Meningococcal disease

Meningococcal infection is caused by a bacterium that can lead to meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms of meningitis include sudden fever, headache and stiff neck.

Get the meningococcal vaccine if:

  • You're a first-year college student living in a dormitory and you didn't have a dose of the vaccine on or after age 16
  • You're joining the military
  • You travel to or work in areas where meningitis is common
  • You've had your spleen removed
  • A meningitis outbreak occurs in your community and public health officials recommend vaccination

Don't get the meningococcal vaccine if you had a severe reaction to a previous dose. Delay getting the vaccine if you're currently ill.

Varicella

Varicella, commonly known as chickenpox, is a highly contagious infection that causes a red, itchy rash. Complications can include bacterial infection of the skin, infection in the bloodstream, pneumonia and inflammation of the brain (encephalitis).

Get the varicella vaccine if:

  • You didn't have the vaccine as a child or adolescent or you've never had chickenpox — especially if you're at high risk of being exposed to varicella or you have close contact with someone with a weakened immune system
  • You aren't sure whether you've had chickenpox
  • You're considering pregnancy and don't know if you're immune

Don't get the varicella vaccine if you had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose, to gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin. You also shouldn't get the vaccine if you're pregnant or have a weakened immune system. Delay getting the vaccine if you're currently ill.

Measles, mumps and rubella

Measles, mumps and rubella are viral infections. Measles, also called rubeola, causes a red, blotchy skin rash. Complications can include ear infection, pneumonia and inflammation of the brain (encephalitis). Mumps causes swelling in the salivary glands, located below and in front of your ears. Rubella, also called German measles, causes a distinctive red rash. Rubella is most serious if it develops during pregnancy.

Get the combined measles- mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine if you were born during or after 1957 and didn't have the vaccine as a child or adolescent. You may need an additional dose if you're a health care worker, you travel internationally, you're a college student or you had a rubella blood test that shows no immunity.

Don't get the MMR vaccine if you had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose, to gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin. You also shouldn't get the vaccine if you're pregnant, have a weakened immune system or recently had a blood transfusion. Delay getting the vaccine if you're currently ill.

Human papillomavirus

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common sexually transmitted infection. Most people who have HPV don't develop symptoms. For some people, however, HPV infection can lead to genital warts and some types of cancer.

Get the HPV vaccine if:

  • You're a woman age 26 or younger and didn't have the vaccine as an adolescent
  • You're a man age 21 or younger and didn't have the vaccine as an adolescent — although men can get the vaccine through age 26, if desired

Don't get the HPV vaccine if you had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose, or to yeast or latex, or you're pregnant. Delay getting the vaccine if you're currently ill.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a potentially serious liver infection.

Get the hepatitis A vaccine if:

  • You want to protect yourself from hepatitis A
  • You have a clotting-factor disorder or chronic liver disease
  • You're a man who has sex with men
  • You inject illicit drugs
  • You're a health care worker who might be exposed to hepatitis A in a lab setting
  • You travel to or work in areas where hepatitis A is common

Don't get the hepatitis A vaccine if you had a severe reaction to a previous dose or you have a severe allergy to latex. Delay getting the vaccine if you're currently ill.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is another type of liver infection. For some people, hepatitis B becomes chronic - leading to long-term liver problems.

Get the hepatitis B vaccine if:

  • You want to protect yourself from hepatitis B
  • You're sexually active but not in a mutually monogamous relationship
  • You're a man who has sex with men
  • You have close contact or sex with a person infected with hepatitis B
  • You inject illicit drugs
  • You're receiving hemodialysis
  • You're a health care or public safety worker who might be exposed to infected blood or body fluids
  • You travel to or work in areas where hepatitis B is common
  • You're age 59 or younger and have type 1 or type 2 diabetes

If you're age 60 or older and have diabetes, ask your doctor if the hepatitis B vaccine is right for you.

Don't get the hepatitis B vaccine if you had a severe reaction to a previous dose or you have a severe allergy to yeast. Delay getting the vaccine if you're currently ill.

Zoster

Zoster, also called herpes zoster or shingles, is caused by the varicella-zoster virus — the same virus that causes chickenpox. Anyone who has had chickenpox might develop zoster and its painful, itchy rash.

Get the zoster vaccine if you're age 60 or older.

Don't get the zoster vaccine if you had a severe allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin or any component of the vaccine. Also don't get the vaccine if you have a weakened immune system. Delay getting the vaccine if you're currently ill.

Haemophilus influenzae type b

Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) is a bacterium that causes potentially serious infections, including pneumonia, meningitis and swelling of the piece of cartilage that covers the windpipe (epiglottitis).

Get the Hib vaccine if:

  • You have health conditions, such as sickle cell disease, leukemia or HIV
  • You've had your spleen removed

Don't get the Hib vaccine if you had a severe reaction to a previous dose. Delay getting the vaccine if you're currently ill.

Last Updated: 2013-03-02
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