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Adults need vaccines, too

The shots are just as important for grownups as they are for kids

Last updated: August 2012

Many people assume that vaccines become less important as they age. That's wrong. In fact, adults need some shots—such as those against shingles and pneomonia—that children don't. And grownups need booster shots against some common diseases, such as the vaccine for diptheria, tetanus, and pertusis (whooping cough).

All the vaccines listed below can cause mild side effects, including redness, soreness, or rashes around the injection site. Occasionally, more serious side effects might occur, especially in those who experience an allergic reaction. But the recommended vaccinations have very good safety records, and all offer benefits that far outweigh any risks. For more detailed advice and periodic updates, see the Centers for Disease Control's vaccine information.

Vaccine Who should get it?
Chicken pox/Shingles
Two shots separated by at least
4 weeks, plus an additional shot to
target shingles.
  • Adults who have not had chicken pox or the vaccination against the infection.
  • A higher-dosed shingles-specific vaccine, Zostavax, is also recommended for adults 60 or older regardless of their history. (It is also approved for those 50 to 59.)
Hepatitis A
Two doses at least 6 months apart.
  • Any adult seeking protection against HAV.
  • Adults at high risk, including homosexual men, people with liver
    disease or clotting disorders, and travelers abroad (excluding
    Australia, Canada, Western Europe, Japan, and New Zealand).
Hepatitis B
Two doses 1 month apart, followed by a booster shot at least 6 months later.
  • Those requesting protection and sexually active adults not in
    a relationship.
  • Adults younger than 60 who have diabetes.
  • Certain adults who have diabetes and are 60 or older, based on
    their need for blood-glucose monitoring and other risk factors.
  • Those at high risk, including adults with kidney disease and
    predialysis, hemodialysis, and home-dialysis patients; homosexual men; international travelers (excluding Australia, Canada, Western Europe, Japan, and New Zealand); health-care workers, and people seeking treatment for a sexually transmitted disease.

Human papillomavirus (HPV)
Two injections 1 to 2 months apart, with a final dose 6 months later.

 

  • Women ages 19 to 26.
  • Men 19 to 21 and those 22 to 26 who have conditions that compromise their immune systems.
Influenza
Once a year, preferably in October or November.
  • All adults, especially those at high risk, including the very old; people who have asthma or diabetes; anyone with heart, lung, or kidney disease; women who are or will become pregnant; and caregivers of children or adults with medical conditions.
Meningitis
Once. (Booster shot every 5 years for some people at high risk because of continued exposure to the bacterium.)
  • People 11 to 18 years years old.
  • College freshmen living in dormitories, military recruits, and travelers to areas where the disease is prevalent, if they haven't been previously vaccinated.
  • People with impaired immunity.
Pneumonia
Once. (Booster shot after 5 years for people who got first shot before age 65 or are at very high risk.)
  • Adults 65 or older
  • Adults 19 to 64 who have certain risk factors, including heart,
    lung, or liver disease; diabetes; alcoholism; cochlear implants;
    conditions that compromise immunity; asthma; smokers; and
    those undergoing chemotherapy.
Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough)
One shot, and a tetanus-diphtheria
booster every 10 years.
  • Adults younger than 65, regardless of their last Td booster.
  • Adults 65 or older who are in contact with an infant.
 
   

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