Recommended Vaccines for Adults

3 Vaccines Every Adult Needs (and 5 You May Need)

Children get a lot of vaccinations when they are little, but many parents and adults forget that they need immunizations too. Just because you are an adult doesn’t mean you have already "built up your immunity" and are at less risk of infectious diseases. In some cases, adults may be more at risk than children (as evidenced by the COVID-19 pandemic).

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There are three vaccines recommended for all adults by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—influenza, Tdap or Td, and COVID-19—and five others that are recommended if you have not been adequately vaccinated or have certain health conditions.

If you are unsure if you are up to date with your immunizations, ask your healthcare provider.

For Adults 18 and Over

Some adult vaccinations are limited to specific age groups. Others are not used for primary immunization but rather as a booster to maintain long-term immunity.

Influenza Vaccine

Everyone over 6 months of age should receive an annual flu vaccination. Those between the ages of 2 and 49 can opt for the flu vaccine nasal spray (FluMist). For other ages, the flu shot is the only option.

The need for influenza vaccination grows greater as you get older, with people 65 and older at increased risk of serious complications including pneumonia and hospitalization.

The flu shot only requires only one dose, delivered by intramuscular injection (into a large muscle). FluMist is sprayed into both nostrils but, as a live vaccine, is avoided in people who are pregnant.

Tdap and Td Boosters

After receiving the DTaP vaccine during childhood to protect against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough), adults should receive one dose of the Tdap (tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis) vaccine, followed by a Tdap or Td (tetanus-diphtheria) booster every 10 years.

One of the follow-ups between the ages of 19 and 64 should involve the Tdap vaccine to ensure protection against pertussis. For this same reason, the Tdap vaccine should be administered between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy, regardless of when you had your last Tdap or Td vaccination.

The Tdap vaccine is delivered intramuscularly, while the Td can be given either intramuscularly or subcutaneously (beneath the skin).

COVID-19 Vaccine

There are three COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States. Each is delivered by intramuscular injection. As of July 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued emergency use authorization (EUA) for the following COVID-19 vaccines:

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted virus linked to cervical cancer and anal cancer.

The HPV vaccine, called Gardasil-9, is typically given to children between the ages of 11 and 12 but can also be used in anyone through age 26 if they have not been vaccinated. For people 15 to 26, three doses are given by intramuscular injection over the course of six months.

Gardasil-9 can also be used in adults 27 to 45 based on shared clinical decision-making with their doctor. Although the protective benefits may be less than in younger people, the vaccine is safe and won't hurt you if you are older.

MMR Vaccine

If you have not had an MMR vaccine and have never had measles, mumps, or rubella (German measles), you may need the vaccine. Adults without evidence of immunity should receive one dose of the MMR vaccine. Being born before 1957 is considered evidence of immunity by the CDC.

The MMR vaccine is delivered by subcutaneous injection.

Varicella (Chickenpox) Vaccine

Varicella (chickenpox) vaccination is recommended for adults 18 to 49 without evidence of immunity. Being born before 1980 is considered evidence of immunity by the CDC.

For adults in need of immunization, two doses of the varicella vaccine are given by subcutaneous injection four to eight weeks apart. Pregnant women should not receive the vaccine.

Vaccines Doctor Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next doctor's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

Doctor Discussion Guide Woman

For Adults 50 and Over

There are certain infectious diseases that adults 50 and over are especially vulnerable to, the risk of which increases with each advancing year.

Pneumococcal Vaccine

All people 65 and older should be vaccinated against pneumococcal disease. This bacterial infection can cause pneumonia, meningitis, and septicemia, which can be potentially severe. There are two vaccines used for this purpose:

  • Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23): Delivered by intramuscular or subcutaneous injection and recommended for all adults 65 and over
  • Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13): Delivered by intramuscular injection and recommended for immunocompromised people and those with a cochlear implant or a cerebrospinal fluid leak

If you have risk factors that place you at higher risk for pneumococcal disease (such as chronic heart and lung disease), you will need to get the PPSV23 vaccine before 65.

Herpes Zoster (Shingles) Vaccine

According to the CDC, one in three Americans will develop shingles (herpes zoster) in their lifetime. Almost all shingles deaths are in people over 65 or those with compromised immune systems.

Due to the high incidence of shingles in older people, as well as the risk of severe neurological and eye complications, shingles vaccination is recommended for all healthy adults 50 and over.

There is one shingles vaccine used in the United States, called Shingrix (recombinant zoster vaccine). It is delivered by intramuscular injection in two doses separated by two to six months.

A Word From Verywell

Before getting a vaccine, check with your healthcare provider about any conditions you have that may contraindicate the vaccine's use. This may include pregnancy, being immunocompromised, or having a pre-existing health condition. Knowing this can help you avoid getting a vaccine that may be potentially harmful. At the same time, there may be alternative vaccines that may be safe for you.

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12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Who should get diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough vaccines?

  7. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Emergency use authorization: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) EUA information.

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  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. MMR and MMRV vaccine composition and dosage.

  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chickenpox (varicella): Administering the vaccine.

  12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Shingles burden and trends.