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What Vaccines Do Adults Need to Prevent Illnesses?

Adults need vaccination to prevent flu, COVID and other illnesses

Group of young adults showing bandages over their shoulders where they received vaccinations.

Adults need vaccination to prevent flu, COVID and other illnesses

Vaccines are often associated with early childhood. But they are also a big part of adulthood.

 

Vaccines for adults are recommended to protect against various infectious diseases, such as flu, COVID, pneumonia and shingles.


“There are several vaccines that young and older adults need that are based on age and on their medical conditions,” says Steven Yale, MD, an internal medicine physician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center Vista. “Vaccines are safe, effective and convenient.”

Why do adults need vaccines?

Adults need certain vaccines even if they received all their basic vaccines as children because immunity from childhood vaccines can decrease over time. The risk for certain diseases, such as shingles, also increases with age.

 

“As we get older, we are still at risk of catching certain infectious diseases that can lead to hospitalization, or worse,” says Dr. Yale.

 

“There are a lot of misconceptions about vaccines,” Dr.Yale adds. “But the truth is that staying up to date with vaccinations is critical for adults just as it is for children.”

 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s adult vaccine schedule is a guide for people 19 and older.

Vaccines for adults 50 and older

One in three people in the US will develop shingles during their lifetime. The risk for this painful rash condition increases with age. The shingles vaccine is recommended for adults 50 years and older.


Pneumonia is a lung infection that mostly affects adults. The pneumonia vaccine is recommended for adults 65 or older. It may be needed sooner based on chronic conditions.


COVID-19 is another respiratory illness that can cause severe illness, especially in older adults. The COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months and older.


Adults who never received a shot of Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) should get one. They should get a booster shot every 10 years to stay protected.

HPV vaccines for young adults

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. The HPV vaccine is recommended between the ages of 9 and 12. Three doses, instead of two, should be given if between 15 to 26, or if immunocompromised.


HPV vaccination is generally not recommended after 26 since most people in this age range have been exposed to HPV already. However, adults 27 to 45 who were not adequately vaccinated may get some benefit from vaccination but should discuss it with their doctor.

Vaccines for adults who travel

Several vaccines are either required or recommended for people traveling to countries where infectious diseases that aren’t common in the U.S. are prevalent.


“Scripps Health has travel vaccine clinics that offer protection against diseases like typhoid fever and hepatitis A that can be contracted when traveling abroad,” Dr. Yale says.


“Review guidelines before traveling out of the country and make sure you’re protected. The whole point of vaccines is to prevent contracting and carrying an infectious disease in you,” Dr. Yale says.

What are possible side effects?

If concerned about any potential vaccine side effects, Dr. Yale informs that “in almost all cases, the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risk.”


Potential side effects vary from person to person and vaccine to vaccine. The most common is arm pain for a few days after getting vaccinated.


“If you’re concerned about potential side effects or allergies, it’s important to speak to your doctor,” Dr. Yale adds.

Be your own advocate

Dr. Yale advises patients to be their own vaccination advocates. Your primary care physician can remind you to get your routine vaccines, but “I always recommend that patients be their own health advocate no matter what,” he says. 


Because people can get vaccines outside of their doctor’s office — at local pharmacies or clinics, for example — records can fall through the cracks. “Keep your own vaccination card or record in a file folder that you can review with your doctor on a regular basis.”