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Grown-ups need shots too

A healthcare provider gives a woman a shot in a doctor's office. Illustration.

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, 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 (PCV13) and pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23).

CDC recommends one dose of PPSV23 for adults 65 and older who do not have weakened immune systems. 

Adults 19 to 64 may need one or more pneumococcal vaccines if they smoke or have certain health conditions, such as:

  • Lung disease.
  • Heart disease, liver disease or diabetes.
  • Alcoholism.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • People with chronic liver disease, kidney disease, HIV or hepatitis C infection, or diabetes.

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:

  • All children between their first and second birthdays, and everyone 2 to 18 years old who has not received the vaccine.
  • Pregnant women at increased risk for infection or severe illness from hepatitis A, such as those traveling internationally or at risk for exposure at work.
  • People with chronic liver disease.
  • Everyone 1 year and older infected with HIV.
  • Men who have sex with men.
  • Users of illegal drugs.
  • Anyone in settings in which many adults have risk factors for hepatitis A infection, such as 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 experiencing homelessness.

Human papillomavirus (HPV)

CDC recommends the HPV vaccine through age 26 for all people who did not complete the full series of shots in adolescence.


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 (varicella).
  • 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 8/4/2021

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