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Grown-ups need shots too

Your doctor can help you figure out if you're up to date on your vaccinations.

Immunizations aren't just for children. Adults need protection from infectious diseases too.

And that means rolling up your sleeve for a shot.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends some vaccines for all adults and others for adults with specific risk factors.

Influenza

Influenza, usually called the flu, is highly contagious. It causes a variety of symptoms, but the virus tends to change each flu season, making a new vaccine and a yearly flu shot necessary.

The flu vaccine is a good idea for almost anyone who wants to reduce the risk of getting sick. CDC recommends that people ages 6 months and older receive the flu vaccine each year. Vaccination is especially important for people who are at high risk for serious flu complications. This includes:

  • Young children.
  • Pregnant women.
  • People with chronic health conditions, like asthma, diabetes, heart disease and lung disease.
  • People 65 years and older.

Vaccination is also important for people who live with or care for anyone at high risk for serious flu complications.

If you have any questions about whether to get a flu shot this year, ask your doctor.

Pneumococcal disease

Pneumococcal bacteria can cause a number of infections, including those affecting the lungs (pneumonia), the blood (bacteremia) or the covering of the brain (meningitis).

There are two types of pneumococcal vaccine: pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV 13) and pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23).

For most adults ages 65 and older, CDC recommends one dose of PCV13 followed by the PPSV23 vaccine at least one year later.

Younger adults may need one or more pneumococcal vaccines if they smoke or have certain health conditions, such as:

  • Asthma or lung disease.
  • Heart disease, liver disease or diabetes.
  • A weakened immune system.

Tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough

Most people have been immunized against tetanus (sometimes called lockjaw) and diphtheria (a bacterial disease affecting the throat and windpipe). CDC recommends that adults get a booster shot (called Td) every 10 years. You may need the booster sooner if you have a severe cut or puncture wound.

Another vaccine, called Tdap, also includes protection against pertussis, or whooping cough. Pregnant women should get this vaccine at about 30 weeks into each pregnancy. A single dose of the Tdap vaccine is also recommended for people age 19 or older as a replacement for one Td booster. This is especially important for those who will be around infants.

You'll still need a Td booster every 10 years after you get a Tdap dose.

Hepatitis B

CDC recommends the hepatitis B vaccine for people who are at risk of infection.

This includes:

  • Sexually active adults who are not in a mutually monogamous relationship. For example, those who have had more than one sex partner in the last six months.
  • Men who have sex with men.
  • People who live with or have sex with someone who has hepatitis B.
  • Adults being evaluated or treated for sexually transmitted infections.
  • Current or recent injection-drug users.
  • Safety and health professionals who ever have contact with blood.
  • Adults in institutional settings, such as drug treatment facilities, correctional facilities or facilities for people with developmental disabilities.
  • Victims of sexual assault or abuse.
  • Adults who have diabetes.
  • Adults with chronic liver disease or end-stage renal disease, as well as those who are treated with dialysis.

The vaccine is also recommended for certain international travelers and people living in countries where hepatitis B is common.

Hepatitis A

The hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for:

  • People with chronic liver disease.
  • People who are being treated with clotting factor concentrates.
  • Men who have sex with men.
  • Users of illegal drugs.
  • Certain laboratory workers.
  • People planning travel to countries where hepatitis A is common.
  • Children ages 6 to 11 months who will be traveling internationally.
  • People in households with an adopted child from a country where hepatitis A is common.
  • People who are homeless.

Human papillomavirus (HPV)

CDC recommends the HPV vaccine for people who did not complete the full series of shots in adolescence:

  • Females through age 26.
  • Males through age 21, or through age 26 if they have sex with men or have a weakened immune system. 

Shingles

Healthy adults 50 years and older should get two doses of the new shingles vaccine, recombinant zoster vaccine (Shingrix), that came out in 2017. CDC recommends this vaccine be used instead of the old one, herpes zoster vaccine (Zostavax).

Other vaccines

Depending on your age, health, career, vaccination history and risk factors, your doctor may recommend vaccines for:

  • Chickenpox.
  • Measles, mumps and rubella.
  • Meningococcal disease.
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b.

For travelers

If you are planning to travel outside the country, check with your doctor at least four to six weeks in advance about required and recommended immunizations. Diseases that aren't considered a risk in the United States are still common in other parts of the world.

Immunization diary

It's a good idea to keep a record of your immunizations. Write down the date you had each shot so that you'll know when you need an update.

reviewed 4/30/2019

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