About vaccines for adults

Review the vaccines that you’ve had, and talk to your doctor about any additional vaccines that you may need.

Flu (influenza)

Who should have the flu vaccine?

Get the flu vaccine if you:

  • Are 50 or older
  • Have a chronic illness, such as diabetes, heart disease or asthma
  • Have a weakened immune system
  • Work in a health care setting
  • Live in a long term care facility
  • Are pregnant (inactivated vaccine only)
  • Want to reduce your chances of missing work because of flu

When and how often?

Once a year, ideally in October or November.

Who shouldn’t have it?

Talk with your doctor about whether it’s safe if you:

  • Are allergic to chicken eggs
  • Have had an allergic reaction to a previous dose of flu vaccine
  • Have a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome after previous flu vaccination

Pneumonia

Who should have the pneumonia (pneumococcal) vaccine?
Get the pneumonia vaccine if you:

  • Are 65 or older
  • Have a chronic illness such as lung or cardiovascular disease, or diabetes
  • Have a weakened immune system
  • Have had your spleen removed

When and how often?

Get one dose of the vaccine at any time. You may need a second dose if you:

  • Are age 65 or older and received your first dose before age 65 and five years or more ago
  • Have a weakened immune system, kidney disease, or have had an organ or bone marrow transplant or your spleen removed

Who shouldn’t have it?
Consult with your doctor if you have a moderate or severe acute illness.

Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis

Who should have the tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a combined tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine for:

  • Adults 19 to 64 years who received their last tetanus vaccine more than 10 years ago
  • Adults, including parents, child care providers and health care workers, who have close contact with infants
  • Women who have just given birth and who have not previously received Tdap
  • Any woman who might become pregnant
  • Adults who have a “dirty” wound — a wound likely to become infected — and whose last Tdap booster was five or more years ago

When and how often?
Adults 19 to 64 who are due for a tetanus-diphtheria (Td) booster shot should receive Tdap instead if they have not previously received Tdap. Other recommendations include:

  • A series of three vaccinations, beginning with a single dose of Tdap, followed at four weeks by a single dose of Td and another dose of Td six to 12 months later for adults who never finished the Td series or don’t know if they ever received the Td vaccine.
  • Tdap instead of Td for adults needing a tetanus shot for wound management if they have not received Tdap before.
  • A single dose of Tdap at least two weeks before having close contact with an infant. Pregnant women shouldn’t receive Tdap until after giving birth, although Td may be given in the second or third trimester.

Who shouldn’t have it?
Don’t get Tdap if you:

  • Have had an severe allergic reaction to a previous dose
  • Are pregnant
  • Have experienced coma or seizures within seven days of receiving a pertussis vaccine
  • Discuss with your doctor if you have had Guillain-Barre syndrome or have epilepsy
  • Are currently ill

Meningitis

Who should have the meningitis (meningococcal) vaccine?
Get the meningitis vaccine if you:

  • Are a college freshman living in a dormitory
  • Travel to areas of the world with a high incidence of meningitis
  • Have had your spleen removed

When and how often?
One dose, which you can get anytime. It’s not known whether a booster shot is needed.

Who shouldn’t have it?
Most healthy adults do not require this vaccine on a routine basis, but it may be recommended if you are at high risk or an outbreak occurs in your community.

Chickenpox

Who should have the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine?
Get the varicella vaccine if you:

  • Have never had chickenpox, especially if you live with someone who has a weakened immune system
  • Aren’t sure whether you’ve had chickenpox
  • Are considering becoming pregnant and don’t know if you’re immune to chickenpox

When and how often?
Two doses, four to eight weeks apart.

Who shouldn’t have it?

Don’t get it if you are pregnant, might become pregnant within four weeks of the vaccine or have a weakened immune system.

Measles, mumps and rubella

Who should have the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine?
If you were born during or after 1957 and never had an MMR vaccination, you need to get one dose now. The following people need two doses:

  • Those recently exposed to measles or in an outbreak setting
  • Health care workers
  • People vaccinated with killed measles vaccine or an unknown type of vaccine from 1963 to 1967
  • Travelers
  • College students and health care workers
  • People who have had a rubella blood test that shows no immunity

When and how often?
One or two doses at any age, for life.

Who shouldn’t get it?
Adults born before 1957 are considered immune to measles. Do not get an MMR vaccination if you have a weakened immune system or you are pregnant or may become pregnant within four weeks of the vaccine.

Human papillomavirus

Who should have the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine?
The HPV vaccine is routinely recommended for 11- and 12-year-old girls. However, it’s also recommended for girls and women between the ages of 13 and 26 who didn’t receive the vaccine earlier.

When and how often?
A series of three doses — the second at two months after your first dose and the last at six months after your first dose.

Who shouldn’t have it?
Don’t get this vaccine if you have ever had a life-threatening reaction to yeast or to the HPV vaccine, or you’re pregnant or moderately to severely sick.

Hepatitis A

Who should have the hepatitis A vaccine?
Get the vaccine if you want one, or if you:

  • Have a clotting factor disorder
  • Have chronic liver disease
  • Are a man who has sex with other men
  • Inject illegal drugs or have sex with someone who does
  • Are a health care worker who might be exposed to the virus in a lab setting
  • Travel or work in countries with a high incidence of hepatitis

When and how often?
You need two doses — you’ll receive the second dose between six and 18 months after the first. Hepatitis A vaccine can be combined with the hepatitis B vaccine in a three-dose series.

Who shouldn’t have it?
Don’t get a vaccination if you’re moderately or severely ill or you’ve had an allergic reaction to the vaccine or its components before.

Hepatitis B

Who should have the hepatitis B vaccine?
Get the vaccine if you:

  • Have more than one sex partner in six months
  • Are a man who has sex with other men
  • Have sex with a person infected with hepatitis B
  • Inject illegal drugs
  • Are a hemodialysis patient
  • Are a health care or public safety worker who might be exposed to infected blood or body fluids
  • Live in a household with someone who has chronic hepatitis B infection

When and how often?
A series of three shots once in your lifetime.

Who shouldn’t have it?
Don’t get the vaccine if you are allergic to baker’s yeast or have had an allergic reaction to the vaccine before or if you are currently sick.

Herpes Zoster (shingles)

Who should have the shingles vaccine?
Consider the shingles vaccine if you are over the age of 60.

When and how often?
One dose, once in your life.

Who shouldn’t have it?
Don’t get this vaccine if you are pregnant, moderately sick or you’ve ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin or any other component of the shingles vaccine. Avoid it if you have a weakened immune system from HIV/AIDS, are receiving medical treatments such as steroids, radiation and chemotherapy, have a history of bone or lymphatic cancer, or you have active, untreated tuberculosis.