Vaccines aren’t just for kids. Grown-ups need them to protect against diseases that become more common in adulthood. They can also protect you if you missed a dose as a child.
Ask your doctor what you need. Let her know if you'll be traveling internationally, if you have allergies, or if you’re pregnant. All of those things can affect which shots you need and which you should skip for now. But most adults need some or all of the following vaccines.
1. Flu Vaccine
How you get it: As a shot or, for some people, as nasal spray
How often and when: Once a year, usually starting in September through the end of the flu season, which can last as late as May. The earlier you get it, the better.
Who should get it: All adults should get the vaccine in some form, unless they have a medical reason not to. The shot is the most common type. The nasal spray version is for healthy adults up to age 49 who aren’t pregnant.
There is an egg-free vaccine in case you have severe egg allergies. If injections make you nervous, you can also get a shot that uses a smaller needle and doesn't pierce as deeply. Also, people who are at greater risk from the flu, like those over 65, can get high-dose injections that give them better protection.
2. Pneumococcal Vaccine
How you get it: As a shot
How often and when: There are two of these vaccines. If you’re a healthy adult over 65, you’ll need both. The timing and sequence of them can vary. Your doctor will know what you need.
Who should get it: All adults 65 and older. If you’re younger than 64, you need it if you:
- Have long-term conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, sickle cell disease, diabetes, alcoholism, cirrhosis, leaks of cerebrospinal fluid, or a cochlear implant
- Have a disease that lowers your body’s defenses against infection, including lymphoma or leukemia, multiple myeloma, kidney failure, HIV, or AIDS
- Take medication or treatment that makes you more likely to get an infection. These include steroids, some cancer drugs, and radiation therapy
- Smoke or have asthma
- Live in a nursing home or long-term care facility