When you think of “getting a shot,” you may immediately think of kids at the pediatrician’s office. But actually, adults need immunizations, too.
So how can you know what immunizations (also commonly called vaccines) you need — and when?
Each year, the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American College of Nurse-Midwives approve a new immunization schedule for adults. Your doctor uses this guideline to help recommend vaccines for you as part of your annual checkup. Just like with screenings, the vaccines you need vary by your age and gender.
Let’s take a look at the vaccines commonly recommended for adults.
The influenza (or flu) vaccine is recommended for everyone age 6 months and older. Because the formulation of the vaccine changes each year, it’s important to get an annual flu shot.
The flu vaccine for a given year is typically available beginning in late summer or early fall. Get your flu shot by October to ensure you’re protected when flu season begins.
This vaccine comes in a couple different formulations. The Td immunization protects against tetanus and diphtheria — and you should get a booster shot every 10 years.
You also need at least one dose of the Tdap vaccine, which protects against all three diseases, particularly if you’ll be in close contact with a baby younger than age 1. It’s important for pregnant women to receive a Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy, since it helps provide the baby with protection from the disease after birth. This is the so-called “whooping cough” vaccine.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in three people in the United States will develop shingles at some point in their lifetime. The condition causes pain or tingling of the skin, along with a rash of blister-like sores along one side of the body. The pain can last for months or even years.
Adults older than age 60 should receive a one-time dose of the shingles vaccine, even if they’ve already had shingles.
Pneumonia is common, but in some people, it can have serious or even deadly complications. There are two types of pneumonia vaccine — the PCV13 and PPSV23 vaccines.
The CDC recommends that all adults age 65 and older receive a one-time dose of each vaccine. Your doctor may recommend the immunization at a younger age if you’re at an increased risk of pneumonia for any reason.
There are three vaccines that help prevent infections with the types of human papillomavirus (HPV) that are associated with certain kinds of cancer. While it’s recommended to receive these vaccines before a person becomes sexually active, they can also be administered afterward and can provide some level of protection.
The CDC recommends women age 26 and younger and men age 21 and younger receive the HPV vaccine.
If you’re traveling…
Other immunizations may be required if you’re heading overseas. If you’re planning a trip out of the country, it’s important to find out what vaccines are needed and receive them plenty in advance of the trip.
Not sure what immunizations you need? Fill out this destination form to learn what immunizations and other preventive measures you may need prior to travel.
Your doctor can recommend age-appropriate immunizations that are right for you at your next checkup. Need a doctor? Find one here.