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Your Age-by-Age Guide to the Adult Immunizations You Need

As an adult, one of the most important steps you can take to protect your health is to make sure you’re up to date on your vaccinations. There are many different vaccines you might need, depending on your age, the vaccinations you’ve already received, your health, your sexual activity and other factors.

Vivek Kesara, MD, a family medicine specialist with Banner Health Center in Chandler, AZ, said, “Immunizations are essential. They protect us against serious diseases that have caused a lot of sickness, disability and death in the past.”

The list of recommended vaccinations may look long. But while you’ll need some vaccines every year, such as a flu shot, most of the time a single shot or short series of shots will give you lifelong protection. Here are the vaccines that are recommended for adults.

Influenza (flu)

Who should get it: All adults age 19 and older
Schedule: 1 dose every year
What to know: There are multiple flu vaccines available each year including a nasal mist. Different vaccines are recommended for different age groups, like seniors who are over 65. In addition, some are not recommended for certain groups of people, like those who are immunocompromised or have certain medical conditions. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website for the most up-to-date recommendations on which flu vaccine to get.

Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap or Td)

Who should get it: All adults age 19 and older
Schedule: 1 dose every 10 years
What to know: You need one dose of the Tdap vaccine followed by a Td booster every 10 years. You need an additional Tdap dose if you are pregnant, and you may need an additional dose of Td or Tdap if you get wounded.

Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)

Who should get it: Adults age 19 to 64
Schedule: 1 dose or 2 doses in 1 series, at least 28 days apart
What to know: You will need either one or two doses depending on when you were born. People born before 1957 were most likely infected and only need one dose. Those born in 1957 or later need two doses.

Varicella (VAR) - chicken pox

Who should get it: Adults age 19 and older who haven’t been immunized or had chicken pox
Schedule: 2 doses in 1 series, 4 to 8 weeks apart
What to know: You may not need the varicella vaccination if you were born before 1980—your doctor can help you decide.

Zoster (RZV) - shingles

Who should get it: Adults age 50 and older
Schedule: 2 doses in 1 series, 6 to 12 months apart
What to know: Younger adults with immunocompromising conditions may also receive the shingles vaccine.

Human papillomavirus (HPV)

Who should get it: Adults age 26 or younger who weren’t immunized as children or teenagers
Schedule: 2 or 3 doses in 1 series
What to know: If you had your first dose before your 15th birthday, you only need two doses of the HPV vaccine. Otherwise, you need three doses. Some adults between the ages of 27 to 45 also qualify for the HPV vaccine. Your doctor can help you decide.

Pneumococcal (PCV15, PCV20, or PPSV23)

Who should get it: Adults age 65 and older
Schedule: 1 dose of PCV15 followed by PPSV23 or 1 dose of PCV20
What to know: If you are age 19 to 64 you may receive the pneumonia vaccine if you are at high risk for pneumococcal disease.

Hepatitis A (HepA)

Who should get it: Adults age 19 or older
Schedule: 2 or 3 doses in 1 series, depending on the vaccine
What to know: You may be able to be vaccinated for hepatitis A and B in one series of vaccines.

Hepatitis B (HepB)

Who should get it: Adults age 19 to 59
Schedule: 2 or 3 doses in 1 series, depending on the vaccine
What to know: You may be able to be vaccinated for hepatitis A and B in one series of vaccines. People age 60 or older may qualify for the hepatitis B vaccine if they are at high risk of infection.

Meningococcal A, C, W, Y (MenACWY)

Who should get it: All adults age 19 or older
Schedule: 1 or 2 doses in 1 series, depending on indications or risk factors
What to know: You may need a booster dose of the meningitis vaccine every five years if your risk is high.

Meningococcal B (MenB)

Who should get it: All adults age 19 or older
Schedule: 1 or 2 doses in 1 series, depending on indications or risk factors
What to know: You may need a booster dose of the meningitis vaccine every five years if your risk is high.

Hemophilus influenza type b (Hib)

Who should get it: All adults age 19 or older
Schedule: 1 or 3 doses in 1 series, depending on indications or risk factors
What to know: This vaccine protects against a range of infections.

COVID-19

Who should get it: All adults age 19 and older
Schedule: 2 doses, 3 to 8 weeks apart, followed by a booster 5 or more months later and a 2nd booster 4 or more months after the 1st booster for people age 50 and older
What to know: The schedule varies slightly based on the type of vaccine you receive. For the most current CDC recommendations regarding the COVID-19 vaccine visit cdc.gov.

“While these vaccines are beneficial for most adults, for some people with allergies, weakened immune systems or other conditions, they may not be recommended,” Dr. Kesara said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shares detailed information about who should and should not be vaccinated as well as recommended timetables for vaccinations.

The bottom line

Staying up to date on your immunizations as an adult is a crucial part of keeping yourself healthy. You can avoid many diseases that can cause serious illnesses and even death by getting the vaccines that help prevent them. Schedule an appointment with your health care provider to review your health status and help you catch up on any immunizations you might have missed.

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