Vaccines for adults: Which do you need?

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Vaccines for adults: Which do you need?

Wonder which vaccines you need? It can be confusing, especially if you thought vaccines were just for kids. Use the list below to find out which vaccines you need now and which vaccines may be coming up — based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

No. 1: Seasonal influenza (flu)

  • Who needs it. The flu vaccine is recommended for all adults. Vaccination is especially important if you have a chronic illness or a weak immune system, you work in a health care setting, you live in a long term care facility, or you live with or care for anyone at high risk of flu-related complications — including children age 5 or younger. The flu shot vaccine — not the nasal spray vaccine — is recommended for pregnant women.
  • When to have it. Get one dose of the flu vaccine every year, ideally in October or November.
  • Who shouldn't have it. The flu vaccine isn't recommended if you're allergic to eggs, you had an allergic reaction to a previous flu vaccine or you're currently ill. Consult your doctor if you've ever had Guillain-Barre syndrome.

No. 2: Pneumonia

  • Who needs it. Get the pneumonia (pneumococcal polysaccharide) vaccine if you're age 65 or older, you have a chronic illness or a weak immune system, you've had your spleen removed, you live in a long term care facility, or you smoke.
  • When to have it. Get one dose of the pneumonia vaccine at any time. You may need a second dose if you're younger than age 65, have certain health conditions and received your first dose five or more years ago, you're age 65 or older and received your first dose before age 65 and five or more years ago, you have a weak immune system or kidney disease, you had an organ or bone marrow transplant, or you had your spleen removed.
  • Who shouldn't have it. The pneumonia vaccine isn't recommended if you had an allergic reaction to a previous pneumonia vaccine or you're currently ill.

No. 3: Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis

  • Who needs it. A dose of the combined tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine is recommended for all adults ages 19 to 64, regardless of when the last vaccine containing tetanus or diphtheria toxoid was given. Vaccination is especially important if you have a wound likely to become infected, you have close contact with infants, you just gave birth and haven't had a Tdap vaccine, you might become pregnant or you work in a health care setting. If you're age 65 or older, get Tdap if you haven't previously received it and you may have close contact with an infant younger than age 12 months.
  • When to have it. Get one dose of Tdap if you never finished the tetanus-diphtheria (Td) series or don't know if you ever had the Td vaccine. Get a second dose four weeks after the first dose. Get a third dose six to 12 months after the second dose. If you're due for a Td booster but haven't previously received Tdap, get one dose of the Tdap vaccine at any time. Get a Td booster every 10 years.
  • Who shouldn't have it. The Tdap vaccine isn't recommended if you had an allergic reaction to a previous dose of the Td or Tdap vaccine, you're pregnant, you experienced a coma or seizures within seven days of a previous pertussis vaccine, or you're currently ill. Consult your doctor if you have epilepsy or you've had Guillain-Barre syndrome.

No. 4: Meningitis

  • Who needs it. Get the meningitis (meningococcal) vaccine if you didn't have it as a child or adolescent and you're living in a dormitory for the first time, you travel to or work in parts of the world where meningitis is common, or you had your spleen removed. The vaccine may also be recommended if you're at high risk or an outbreak occurs in your community.
  • When to have it. Get one dose of the meningitis vaccine at any time. If you're age 55 or younger, get the meningococcal conjugate vaccine. If you're age 56 or older, get the meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine. Get a second dose eight weeks later if you have certain health conditions, such as HIV.
  • Who shouldn't have it. The meningitis vaccine isn't recommended if you're currently ill. Consult your doctor if you've had Guillain-Barre syndrome.

No. 5: Chickenpox

  • Who needs it. Get the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine if you didn't have it as a child or adolescent, you've never had chickenpox (especially if you live with someone who has a weak immune system), you aren't sure whether you've had chickenpox, or you're considering pregnancy and don't know if you're immune to chickenpox.
  • When to have it. Get one dose of the chickenpox vaccine at any time. Get a second dose at least four weeks after the first dose.
  • Who shouldn't have it. The chickenpox vaccine isn't recommended if you have a weak immune system, you're currently ill, you had an allergic reaction to gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin, you're pregnant, or you might become pregnant within four weeks of having the vaccine.

No. 6: Measles, mumps and rubella

  • Who needs it. Get the combined measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine if you were born during or after 1957 and never had an MMR vaccination.
  • When to have it. Get one dose of the MMR vaccine at any time. Get a second dose four weeks after the first dose if you were recently exposed to measles or an outbreak occurs in your community, you're a health care worker, you were vaccinated with a killed measles vaccine or an unknown type of measles vaccine from 1963 to 1967, you travel frequently, you're a college student, or you had a rubella blood test that shows no immunity.
  • Who shouldn't have it. The MMR vaccine isn't recommended if you were born before 1957, you have a weak immune system, you're currently ill, you had an allergic reaction to gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin, you recently had a blood transfusion, you're pregnant, or you might become pregnant within four weeks of having the vaccine.

No. 7: Human papillomavirus

  • Who needs it. Get the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine if you're a woman age 26 or younger and you didn't have it as an adolescent. Consider the HPV vaccine if you're a man age 26 or younger. For men, the HPV vaccine helps prevent genital warts and reduces transmission of the virus that can cause cervical cancer in women.
  • When to have it. Get one dose of the HPV vaccine at any time. Get a second dose one to two months after the first dose, and a third dose six months after the first dose.
  • Who shouldn't have it. The HPV vaccine isn't recommended if you're allergic to yeast or latex, you had an allergic reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine, you're pregnant or you're currently ill.

No. 8: Hepatitis A

  • Who needs it. 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 or have sex with someone who does, you're a health care worker who might be exposed to the virus in a lab setting, or you travel to or work in parts of the world where hepatitis A is common.
  • When to have it. Get one dose of the hepatitis A vaccine at any time. Get a second dose six to 18 months after the first dose.
  • Who shouldn't have it. The hepatitis A vaccine isn't recommended if you had an allergic reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine or you're currently ill.

No. 9: Hepatitis B

  • Who needs it. 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 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 live with someone who has a chronic hepatitis B infection, or you travel to or work in parts of the world where hepatitis B is common.
  • When to have it. Get one dose of the hepatitis B vaccine at any time. Get a second dose one month after the first dose. Get a third dose at least two months after the second dose and at least four months after the first dose.
  • Who shouldn't have it. The hepatitis B vaccine isn't recommended if you're allergic to baker's yeast, you had an allergic reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine, or you're currently ill.

No. 10: Herpes zoster (shingles)

  • Who needs it. Get the shingles vaccine if you're older than age 60.
  • When to have it. Get one dose of the shingles vaccine at any time.
  • Who shouldn't have it. The shingles vaccine isn't recommended if you're pregnant, you're currently ill, you had an allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin or any other component of the shingles vaccine, you have a weak immune system from HIV/AIDS, you're receiving medical treatments such as steroids, radiation or chemotherapy, or you have a history of bone or lymphatic cancer.

No. 11: Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)

  • Who needs it. Get one dose of the Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine if you haven't previously received it and you have certain health conditions — such as sickle cell disease, leukemia or HIV — or you had your spleen removed.
  • When to have it. Get one dose any time.
  • Who shouldn't have it. The Hib vaccine isn't recommended if you're currently moderately or severely ill.
Last Updated: 2011-02-15
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