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.
Most adults need some or all of the following 10 vaccines.
Ask your doctor or pharmacist 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 vaccines you need and which you should skip for now.
1. Flu Vaccine
How you get it: As a shot, or sometimes a nasal spray is recommended
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 your protection.
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 has often been available for healthy adults up to age 49 who aren’t pregnant, but it wasn’t recommended in the 2016-17 flu season.
There is an egg-free vaccine in case you have severe egg allergies. And 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 have a greater chance of getting 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 depend on what vaccine you may have had before. Doctors recommend another dose 5 years after the first for people with long-lasting kidney failure or other conditions that weaken the immune system. People who get their first pneumococcal shot before age 65 get a second dose after 65.
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, and 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