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Adults

Why are Vaccines Important for Adults?

Vaccines can help protect your health at every stage and every age of your life.

Every year thousands of adults in the U.S. become seriously ill and are hospitalized because of diseases that vaccines can help prevent, like flu and pneumococcal disease. Many adults even die from these diseases. By getting vaccinated, you lower your chances of getting certain diseases and help protect yourself from much of this unnecessary suffering. In addition, no one wants to get sick and miss weeks of work or school, or miss spending time with family and friends due to a preventable disease.

You Can Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones from Diseases

Vaccines lower your chance of spreading disease. By getting vaccinated, not only do you stay healthier, but you can also help avoid spreading a serious infectious disease, such as flu or whooping cough, to others. For example, some people in your family or community may not be able to get certain vaccines due to their age or certain health conditions, and they depend on you to help prevent the spread of disease.

Infants, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems (like those undergoing cancer treatment) are especially vulnerable to infectious diseases.

All Adults
  • Flu VaccineAll adults need a flu vaccine every year. It is especially important for people with chronic health conditions, pregnant women and older adults since they are at higher risk of flu complications.
  • Tdap VaccineEvery adult should get the Tdap vaccine once if they did not receive it as an adolescent to protect against whooping cough (pertussis), tetanus and diphtheria, and then a Td booster shot (tetanus & diphtheria only) every 10 years. If you are going to be around a newborn, its particularly important to get the Tdap shot to help protect the baby from dangerous diseases like whooping cough before he or she she can be fully vaccinated. Additionally, women should get the Tdap vaccine each time they are pregnant, preferably at 27 through 36 weeks to protect themselves and their babies from whooping cough. Learn more by visiting our Pregnancy section.
  • MMR (Measles-Mumps-Rubella) Vaccine – The large number of measles cases reported in the U.S are leading many adults to wonder if they are protected from measles or if they need a booster shot. According to the CDC, if you were born after 1957 you need at least 1 dose of measles vaccine UNLESS a laboratory confirmed that you had past measles infection or are immune to measles. Certain adults may need 2 doses of MMR including:
    • students at post-high school education institutions
    • healthcare personnel
    • international travelers
    • people who public health authorities determine are at increased risk for getting measles during a measles outbreak

Find out more information about MMR vaccination of adults and measles, in general, in the Commonly-Asked Questions section below and on the Vaccines and Diseases page.

Adults Ages 19-49

In addition to flu and Tdap vaccines, adults between 19 and 49 years old may also need:

  • HPV Vaccine – Protects against six HPV-related cancers and genital warts. The CDC recommends HPV vaccine for men and women up to age 26 if they weren’t vaccinated when they were younger.

In addition to the vaccines mentioned above, other vaccines may be recommended for you based on certain risk factors including chronic health conditions, lifestyle, your workplace and/or travel.

Adults Ages 50+

As we get older, our immune systems tend to weaken over time, putting us at higher risk for certain diseases. So, in addition to flu and Tdap vaccines, adults 50 years and older may also need:

  • Shingles Vaccine – Protects against shingles and the complications from the disease. The CDC recommends two doses of shingles vaccine (Shingrix) for all healthy adults starting at age 50.
  • Pneumococcal Vaccine – Protect against pneumococcal disease. Pneumococcal vaccination is recommended for all adults over 65 years old, and for adults younger than 65 years who have certain chronic health conditions.

In addition to the vaccines mentioned above, other vaccines may be recommended for you based on certain risk factors including chronic health conditions, travel, lifestyle and/or your workplace.

CDC's Adult Vaccination Quiz

CDC's Recommended Adult Immunization Schedule

Commonly Asked Questions About Vaccines for Adults

Recently, the U.S. experienced outbreaks of measles across the country, and you may be asking yourself if you need to get a vaccine.

According to the CDC, if you were born after 1957 you need at least 1 dose of measles vaccine or MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine, UNLESS a laboratory confirmed that you had past measles infection or are immune to measles.

Certain adults may need 2 doses of MMR vaccine, including:

  • students at post-high school education institutions
  • healthcare personnel (see more information below)
  • international travelers (see more information below)
  • people who public health authorities determine are at increased risk for getting measles during a measles outbreak

If you’re not sure whether you are up to date on measles vaccination, talk with your doctor.

If I got the old version of the measles vaccine in the 1960s, do I need to be revaccinated with the current version of the measles vaccine?

According to the CDC, if you know that you got the killed measles vaccine (an earlier formulation of measles vaccine that is no longer used) in the 1960s, you should talk to your doctor about getting revaccinated with the current, live measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. Not many people fall into this group; the killed vaccine was given to less than 1 million people between 1963 and 1968. Also, most people don’t know if they got the killed vaccine during this time.

If you’re unsure whether you fall into this group, you could ask your doctor to test your blood to determine whether you’re immune. Or you can just get a dose of MMR vaccine. There is no harm in getting another dose of MMR vaccine, even if you may already be immune to measles (or mumps or rubella).

If you are unsure whether your are immune to measles.

If you’re unsure whether you’re immune to measles, you should first try to find your vaccination records or documentation of measles immunity. If you do not have written documentation of measles immunity, you should get vaccinated with the MMR vaccine. Another option is to have a doctor test your blood to determine whether you’re immune, but this option will take two doctor’s visits. There is no harm in getting another dose of MMR vaccine, even if you are already be immune to measles (or mumps or rubella).

Do You Need a Booster Shot?

No. If you got two doses of measles/MMR vaccine as a child, according to the U.S. vaccination schedule, the CDC considers you to be protected for life against measles. Again, if you’re not sure whether you are fully vaccinated, talk with your doctor.

If You are Traveling Internationally

As measles is still common in other countries, unvaccinated people continue to get measles while abroad and bring the disease into the United States and spread it to others.

The CDC recommends that adults without evidence of immunity against measles* get 2 doses of MMR vaccine separated by at least 28 days.

*Evidence of immunity against measles includes at least one of the following: written documentation of vaccination, laboratory evidence of immunity, laboratory confirmation of measles, or birth in the United States before 1957.

If You are a Healthcare Provider

The CDC states that healthcare personnel should have documented evidence of immunity, according to the recommendations of the ACIP. Healthcare personnel without evidence of immunity should get 2 doses of MMR vaccine, separated by at least 28 days.

No. The way that flu shots are made they cannot cause the flu. Flu shots are made from either flu viruses that have been ‘inactivated’ (killed) OR a single gene from a flu virus (instead of the full virus) so they can create an immune response without causing a flu infection.

While some people may get mild side effects from the flu shot like a sore arm, a headache, muscle aches or a low fever, those side effects usually begin soon after the shot and only last 1 -2 days.

Learn more about the current flu season.

The most common side effects from flu shots are soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the shot was given. Some people also report having a low fever, headache and muscle aches after getting their flu shot. If these reactions occur, they usually begin soon after the shot and last 1-2 days.

Besides side effects, there are several reasons why someone might get flu symptoms, even after they have been vaccinated against flu.

  • Some people can become ill from other respiratory viruses besides flu such as rhinoviruses, which are associated with the common cold, cause symptoms similar to flu, and also spread and cause illness during the flu season. The flu vaccine only protects you from the flu, not other illnesses.
  • Some people are exposed to flu viruses, which cause the flu, shortly before getting vaccinated or during the two-week period after vaccination that it takes the body to develop immune protection. This may result in a person becoming ill with flu before protection from the vaccine takes effect.
  • A person might be exposed to a flu virus that is very different from the viruses the vaccine is designed to protect against. The ability of a flu vaccine to protect a person depends largely on the “match” between the viruses selected to make the flu vaccine that season and those spreading and causing illness. There are many different flu viruses that spread and cause illness among people.
  • The flu vaccine can vary in how well it works season to season, and sometimes people who get vaccinated may still get sick. However, it is important to note that the flu vaccine still provides some protection and can:
    • Reduce the severity of your illness if you got vaccinated, but still get sick from flu.
    • Reduce the risk of children dying from flu.
    • Reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization for children and adults.
    • Help protect people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness due to age and/or certain chronic health conditions.
    • Be an important preventive tool for people with chronic health conditions.
    • Help protect women during and after pregnancy.

Protecting yourself against diseases through vaccination also protects your family, friends, coworkers and others you might come in contact with, including vulnerable infants, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems. Getting sick with diseases like the flu, mumps, pneumonia, shingles, and other vaccine-preventable diseases are not only inconvenient with days of bed rest, missed work, cancelled plans and possible hospitalization, but can also be extremely dangerous to any adult. In fact, during a recent flu season a perfectly healthy 21-year-old bodybuilder in Pennsylvania died from the flu within 24 hours of showing symptoms. The CDC estimates that since 2010, flu annually results in:

  • Between 9.3 million and 49.0 million illnesses
  • Between 140,000 and 960,000 hospitalizations
  • Between 12,000 and 79,000 death

Some of these people were healthy prior to getting the flu.

All of the diseases that we protect ourselves against are still circulating here in the U.S. and abroad. As a matter of fact, many outbreaks of measles in the U.S. started from travelers who were exposed to diseases when visiting other countries and returned home unknowingly infecting fellow travelers and others once back in the U.S.

Staying up-to-date with all of the recommended immunizations is the best way to protect yourself, your family and your community against serious, and potentially deadly, vaccine-preventable diseases.

People of all ages can get whooping cough (also known as pertussis), but the disease can be very dangerous for babies, as they are at particularly high risk of serious complications, hospitalization and death.

Whooping cough easily spreads from person to person through coughing or sneezing or by just sharing breathing space. Since the symptoms of whooping cough can vary, some people with whooping cough may just have a mild cough or what seems like a common cold, and they can end up spreading it to babies they are in close contact with. In fact, most unvaccinated children living with a family member with whooping cough will get the disease.

Vaccination is the best way to protect people of all ages, especially infants and young children, from whooping cough. For babies and young children, the vaccine to protect against whooping cough is called DTaP. For preteens, teens, adults and pregnant women, the vaccine is called Tdap.

The CDC recommends a one-time dose of Tdap  for all adults 19 years and older. The vaccine is especially important if you are planning to be around babies and young children.

Pregnant women should get a Tdap vaccine during the 3rd trimester of each pregnancy to protect themselves and their newborns against whooping cough.