Find out how to stay on top of the recommended vaccines for adults

Medically reviewed by Paria Sanaty Zadeh, PharmD

Vaccines protect you from getting and transmitting various infectious diseases or reduce the severity of the illness. The vaccines recommended for adults over age 19 vary from those for children. Some are given yearly, while others are recommended at specific ages. Side effects are generally mild if they occur.

This article discusses vaccines you need as an adult, when to get booster doses, and how to stay up to date with your needed vaccines. 

Why Are Vaccines for Adults Important?

Vaccines help keep you from getting sick and spreading viruses and bacteria to others. Getting a vaccine can mean you avoid extra medical costs and stay well so you can care for your family, maintain your daily schedule, and don't miss work.

Vaccines can be highly effective. Though they may not prevent 100% of cases, they can also reduce the severity of an illness and keep you out of the hospital.

What Factors Affect Vaccine Recommendations?

Some vaccines are recommended for almost all adults, but various factors determine which vaccines a person should receive and when, including:

  • Age: Vaccines vary for the age at which they are recommended, including those for people at age 50 or 65.
  • Health conditions: Those who are pregnant or have a weakened immune system due to illness or medication may have different vaccine recommendations.
  • Type of employment: Healthcare workers and others who are routinely exposed to people with infectious illnesses or handle materials that could spread infection may have additional vaccine recommendations.
  • Travel: People who travel internationally, immigrants, or refugees may have additional vaccine recommendations,

What Vaccines Do Adults Need?

Every adult age 19 and older should stay up-to-date on vaccinations for COVID-19, influenza, and Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis). Other vaccines depend on age and other factors.


Tdap covers the following three serious illnesses:

  • Tetanus: A bacterial infection that affects the muscles and nerves, causing lockjaw (spasms of the jaw muscles leading to an inability to open the mouth)
  • Diphtheria: A contagious bacterial infection that affects breathing and swallowing and can be fatal
  • Pertussis (whooping cough): A contagious bacterial infection that affects the respiratory tract and can cause a hacking cough

Children are vaccinated with the DTaP vaccine (the abbreviation for the children's version) against these illnesses, and preteens (age 11 or 12) receive the Tdap vaccine.

Adults should receive a Tdap vaccine if they didn't receive a Tdap shot previously. Adults should receive a Tdap or Td booster every 10 years.

A pregnant person should receive Tdap early in their third trimester to protect the baby in its early months after birth.

Influenza Vaccine

Influenza vaccine is generally recommended once a year during flu season to protect against the strains predicted to be circulating. The protection fades over several months, another reason annual immunization is recommended.

Different formulations of the influenza vaccine injection (flu shot) include egg-free and preservative-free ones. Some are formulated to protect older adults better by triggering a stronger immune response.

The nasal spray option contains a live virus and is not recommended for certain people, including pregnant people, those with weakened immune systems, or those over age 49.

COVID-19 Vaccine

Adults should stay up-to-date with vaccine recommendations to protect against serious illness from the circulating COVID-19 variants. A single dose of a 2023-2024 updated vaccine is recommended for adults (regardless of previous COVID-19 vaccinations or lack thereof).

People with a weakened immune system may need additional doses. People who recently had a COVID-19 infection can consider waiting three months before receiving an updated vaccine.

If you have questions, talk to a healthcare provider about which COVID-19 shots they recommend.

Hepatitis B Vaccine

The hepatitis B vaccine protects against hepatitis B, a virus that inflames the liver. Adults aged 19 through 59 should receive a hepatitis B vaccine series. Adults aged 60 and over with risk factors for hepatitis B should complete a vaccine series. It is optional for those aged 60 and over without risk factors.

Shingles Vaccine

At age 50 or over, the Shingrix vaccine for shingles is recommended. Shingles is a painful reactivation of the virus that causes chickenpox. It can have serious complications. Vaccination is given as a two-dose series, between two to six months apart.

Shingrix may also be given to adults 19 and over who have a weakened immune system. Talk to a healthcare provider to determine if it is recommended for you if you are not yet 50.

Pneumococcal Vaccine

At age 65 or over, pneumococcal vaccine is recommended to prevent bacterial pneumonia (lung infection) and other illnesses caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae. It may also be given to people under 65 with health conditions that make them more susceptible to this bacteria.

Different types of pneumococcal vaccines are available, including PCV15, PCV20, and PPSV23. Talk to a healthcare provider about which pneumococcal vaccine you should receive, depending on your age and vaccination history.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Vaccine

RSV infection can cause serious breathing problems in babies and some adults. At age 60 or over, a healthcare provider may recommend RSV vaccination if you are at a higher risk for severe RSV disease, such as having a weakened immune system, chronic health condition, or living in a nursing home. Talk to a healthcare provider to see if it is right for you.

A pregnant person between the 32nd and 36th week of gestation should receive the RSV vaccine to protect the baby from severe RSV disease without having to give the baby the vaccine after birth. This also depends on the timing of the RSV season.

Other Vaccinations

Adults may receive other vaccinations depending on their health risks or previous vaccination status. These include:

  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine: The HPV vaccine protects against a group of sexually transmitted viruses that increase cancer risk. It is recommended between ages 11 and 12, but if not given at that age, it may be given through age 26. Some adults up to 45 may choose to get the vaccine depending on risk factors.
  • MenB (meningococcal B) vaccine: This vaccine prevents meningococcal disease. People aged 19 through 23 should discuss whether it is recommended for them with a healthcare provider.
  • MMR (mumps, measles, rubella) vaccine: Adults born in 1957 or after who don't have evidence of immunity to MMR should receive this vaccine. People capable of becoming pregnant who don't have evidence of immunity to rubella, and students in postsecondary institutions who don't have evidence of immunity to mumps, measles, and rubella, should also receive MMR vaccine, among other special populations.
  • Varicella (chickenpox) vaccine: This infectious disease may be more severe in adults than in children. Adults born in 1980 or after who do not have evidence of immunity to varicella should receive this vaccine.
  • Travelers: Other immunizations may be required or recommended depending on where you travel and other factors like the duration and time of year of your travel. Consult a healthcare provider as soon as possible (at least one month before you leave) to ensure you have time to get all the necessary doses beforehand.

Adult Immunizations and Pregnancy

If you are pregnant or may become pregnant, it's important to talk to a healthcare provider about vaccines and when to get them. In general, the CDC recommends pregnant people receive:

  • MMR vaccine: Ensure you are up-to-date with MMR vaccination and immune to rubella (German measles) before becoming pregnant, as acquiring rubella during pregnancy can have severe consequences for the fetus. It is best to avoid becoming pregnant until one month after receiving the MMR vaccine and your immunity is confirmed by a blood test.
  • Hepatitis B vaccine: This vaccine is recommended before pregnancy to prevent acquiring it and then transmitting it to the baby during delivery.
  • Tdap vaccine: One dose of Tdap is recommended during each pregnancy, preferably between the 27th to 36th week of gestation, to protect the newborn against whooping cough.
  • RSV vaccine: Pregnant people should receive RSV vaccine between the 32nd to 36th week of gestation to protect the newborn.
  • Influenza vaccine: For pregnant people, influenza can be more severe and is more likely to result in hospitalization. Getting sick with influenza while pregnant may also be harmful to the fetus. Influenza vaccine is recommended if you are pregnant during flu season. The vaccine can be given in any trimester of pregnancy. It is generally given in the fall (September and October), but it can be given in the summer (July and August) for pregnant people in the third trimester during those months.
  • COVID-19 vaccine: COVID-19 can be more severe in pregnancy. Ensure you are up-to-date with the recommended updated vaccine.

How to Check Your Vaccination Status

While there is no national database to check your vaccination status, your state may have a registry where you can access this information. Contact your state health department to inquire.

If your state doesn't maintain a registry, your current and previous healthcare providers may have medical records with your vaccination records, but these may only be maintained for a limited number of years.

You may need to consult with your parents or caregivers who maintained your childhood vaccination records and with previous schools or jobs that required vaccinations.

It is recommended to personally maintain a record of the vaccinations you have received to keep your information current and accurate. This will save you time and inconvenience when the information is needed.

If you don't have the information and can't track it down, it's generally safe to repeat vaccines if you aren't sure if you've previously received one. In some cases, a healthcare provider can order a blood test that can confirm if you are immune to the disease. This can prevent unnecessary repeat vaccine doses. Discuss your situation with a healthcare provider.


Vaccinations prevent serious diseases and also help protect those around you from acquiring diseases from you. The CDC recommends that adults get certain vaccines, which are usually given in one or more doses.

Read the original article on Verywell Health.

2023-11-30T00:49:52Z dg43tfdfdgfd