9 vaccines you may need as an adult

When you hear the word “vaccine,” childhood vaccinations are likely what comes to mind. But in reality, vaccines aren’t just for kids. Vaccines also protect adults against serious health complications, and they may help keep your loved ones safe by slowing the spread of illnesses.

Ask your doctor if you need one for these 9 adult vaccines.

Vaccine #1: Flu

You know the symptoms – fever, chills, sore throat, aches and pains. The flu can be very serious for people with other medical conditions.

The influenza vaccine is especially important if you’re over age 65 or if you have a chronic medical condition such as a lung condition, heart disease or diabetes.1 If you don’t want to get a shot, there’s also a nasal spray that’s just as effective. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that people with certain conditions or anyone over the age of 50 should not receive the nasal spray.1

When to get it

The flu is highly contagious, so it’s important to get a flu vaccine every year. The vaccine takes a few weeks to become effective. It’s generally recommended that people get a flu vaccine before it starts spreading in your community or by the end of October, according to the CDC. However, you can get a flu shot into November and December – and no matter when you get your flu shot, it will still be valuable to help protect you for the rest of the flu season.2

Vaccine #2: COVID-19

COVID-19 is still circulating, and one of the best ways to protect yourself is by getting vaccinated. Currently 2 vaccines are recommended by the CDC: Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.3 Talk with your doctor about which option is best for you.

When to get it

As soon as possible. Visit the CDC website for guidance on getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Vaccine #3: Tdap or Td Booster

“Tdap” stands for the 3 potentially deadly diseases the vaccine protects against:4

  • Tetanus, which causes painful muscle stiffness and can lead to difficulty breathing and swallowing
  • Diphtheria, which may lead to heart failure or paralysis of the muscles involved in breathing
  • Pertussis (or whooping cough), which causes uncontrollable coughing that can make breathing difficult

Diphtheria and pertussis can spread through coughing and sneezing. Tetanus is contracted through breaks in the skin. Adults who are exposed to diphtheria or tetanus and aren’t protected against it are at risk of developing heart failure, paralysis or even death.4 With pertussis, adults may experience loss of bladder control and rib fractures due to the intense coughing.4

When to get it

If you’ve never had a Tdap shot, get one as soon as possible. If you’ve had the vaccine before, make sure you get the Tdap or Td booster every 10 years.5 Talk with your doctor if you’re unsure when you had your most recent shot.

Vaccine #4: MMR

The MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccine comes in 2 doses. It gets its name from the 3 different viral infections it protects against:

  • Measles, which causes a fever, rash and cough6
  • Mumps, which causes swelling of salivary glands under the ears on one or both sides7
  • Rubella, which causes a fever, headache, pink eye and rash8

Measles is the most contagious of the group. In fact, if a person catches it, they can spread it to 90% of the people they come into contact with who are not already immune.9 Those who aren’t vaccinated against measles run the risk of serious complications, including pneumonia or encephalitis (swelling of the brain).10

When to get it

You may have received the MMR vaccine when you were a child. But if you’re not sure, a blood test can determine whether you need another dose or not. Also, if you’re traveling to another country, you may need another shot.11 Check with your doctor to be sure.

Vaccine #5: Shingles

Shingles is caused by varicella-zoster virus (VZV), the same virus that causes chickenpox. If you had chickenpox as a child, VZV remains in your body and can flare up as shingles later in life.12 The shingles vaccine also protects you against postherpetic neuralgia, a painful condition that affects your nerves after a shingles infection.13

When to get it

If you’re 50 or older or 19 years and older who have a weakened immune system, the CDC recommends 2 doses of the shingles vaccine (Shingrix), which will give you long-term protection.12 These shots are given anywhere from 2 to 6 months apart. If you’ve had a different version of the shingles shot in the past, your doctor may recommend that you get revaccinated.12

Vaccine #6: Pneumonia

The pneumococcal vaccine protects against several serious infections of the bloodstream and lungs, including pneumonia. Pneumonia can be extremely dangerous, even deadly, in older adults.14 It’s important for everyone over age 65 — as well as younger adults with underlying health conditions — to put this vaccine on their list.

When to get it

For adults ages 65 and over and people ages 19 to 64 with certain risk factors, the CDC recommends getting a dose of 1 of the 2 pneumococcal vaccines.15 Ask your doctor if the pneumonia vaccine is for you, if you’re due to get the vaccine or whether you need a second dose.

Vaccine #7: Meningitis

Meningitis causes swelling and serious infections of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The condition is commonly spread though saliva, by coughing or kissing.16

There are 2 types of vaccines for meningitis, both provide protection against bacterial meningitis. 17 You can be exposed to meningitis in any public setting, such as work, school or travel.

When to get it

If you are at risk of meningococcal disease, it’s important talk with your doctor to consider your options.

Vaccine #8: Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a liver disease that can cause long-term health problems. It’s caused by the hepatitis B virus, which is spread through bodily fluids like blood and semen.18 The vaccine is a series of 2 to 4 shots that help protect you from contracting the virus.

When to get it

Adults ages 19 to 59 and those over 60 with risk factors for hepatitis B are strongly recommended to get vaccinated.19 If you haven’t had the hepatitis B vaccine, it’s best to schedule an appointment with your doctor.

Vaccine #9: HPV

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most common sexually transmitted disease and in most cases, it goes away on its own.20 However, for some people, the disease can lead to genital warts and several types of cancer. The HPV vaccine helps prevent you from getting infected from the virus.20

When to get it

The HPV vaccine is recommended for teens and young adults through age 26, if not vaccinated already. Some adults ages 27 to 45 years old, who are not already vaccinated, may decide to get the HPV vaccine after speaking with a doctor about their risk for new HPV infections.21

Remember: Being up to date on your vaccines is an important part of staying healthy. Talk with your doctor about which vaccines are safe and recommended for you.

Already a member?

Sign in or register on your plan website to see personalized benefit details and resources to help you manage your plan and health.