Which Vaccines Should Adults Get?

Last Editorial Review: 10/9/2018

Ask the experts

I have a checkup scheduled next week, but I haven't seen a doctor in over five years. As a result, I'm afraid I'm not up-to-date with my immunizations. Which vaccines should adults get? What are the recommended vaccines for adults?

Doctor's response

Vaccine-preventable diseases are those diseases for which there is a shot that helps the immune system prepare for an infection. A person develops immunity after he or she has received a vaccine and responded to it. When a vaccinated person is exposed to a virus (for example, hepatitis B) or bacteria (for example, diphtheria), his or her body is able to destroy the virus or bacteria and prevent the disease. No vaccine is perfect, and some people who receive a vaccine can still get the disease. This is why it is important for everyone to get the vaccine. This gives the community what experts call "herd" immunity and means that, basically, there are very few people who could serve as a reservoir for the disease. Herd immunity prevents severe outbreaks of diseases. The following table is a basic immunization schedule for adults. If you're traveling to tropical areas, you may need more vaccines.

Recommended vaccination schedule for adults
VaccineRecommended age of vaccination
Influenza (flu)Yearly
Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Tdap)
tetanus, diphtheria (Td)
Tdap once as an adult
Td every 10 years
Varicella (chickenpox)Two doses (unless had documented disease or immunized as a child or adolescent)
Human papillomavirus (HPV) (three doses)Three doses before 26 years of age (unless already immunized as an adolescent)
Zoster (shingles)One dose after 60 years of age
Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)One or two doses (unless immunized previously, known to have been previously infected or born prior to 1957)
Pneumococcal diseaseAll people over 65 years of age
People in special high-risk groups and who have certain chronic illnesses should receive both of the two different pneumococcal vaccines as soon as possible
Hepatitis ATwo doses in certain patients who are high risk (unless immunized previously)
Hepatitis BThree doses in certain patients who are high risk (unless immunized previously)
Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib)One to three doses in certain patients who are high risk (unless immunized previously)

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United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Recommended Immunizations for Children from Birth through 6 years Old: By Age United States, 2017." Feb. 6, 2017. <https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/easy-to-read/child-easyread.html>.