What vaccines do I need as an adult?

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Just about everyone can remember the yearly visit to their pediatrician’s office for their childhood vaccines. What about the vaccines after your turn 18? Are there any more vaccines that you need? And who is keeping track of all this? This blog post was written in 2021. Some vaccine recommendations can change yearly. For the most up-to-date and accurate information, check the CDC’s website! Here is a link: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/hcp/imz/adult.html

First, let’s talk about the vaccines we need to get on a routine basis throughout life:

  • Influenza: Every year
    • It is recommended that you get a flu shot every year. Each year, scientists study flu trends and reformulate the flu vaccine. The flu shot protects against the strains of flu that will be the most common for that year. 
    • There are different formulations of the flu vaccines depending on your age. Those over 65 get a high-dose flu shot.  
  • Tetanus (Td or Tdap): Every 10 years
    • We need a tetanus booster every 10 years to maintain immunity. 
    • There are two types of tetanus shots. Td protects against tetanus and diphtheria. Tdap protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough). 
    • Pregnant women should get a Tdap shot in the third trimester of each pregnancy. This protects their baby against whooping cough. 

Now let’s talk about the vaccines that are linked to age: 

  • Shingles: 50+ years
    • The new recombinant shingles vaccine, known as Shingrix, should be given to those over 50. 
    • This is a two-series vaccine. This means that you will need 2 doses for full protection. The two doses are spaced out by 2-6 months. 
    • What if I had the old Shingles vaccine?
      • If you were vaccinated for Shingles prior to 2017, you likely got the Zostavax vaccine. This is just an older version of the shingles vaccine.
      • If you got the Zostavax, it is recommended that you also receive Shingrix (the new shingles shot). Shingrix provides much better protection against shingles. 
  • Pneumonia: 65+ years (but it depends)
    • There are two types of pneumonia shots: PPSV23 (Pneumovax-23), and PCV13 (Prevnar-13).
    • The recommendations for pneumonia vaccines change frequently. The recommendations are very person-specific. 
    •  Currently, if you have a healthy immune system, you should get 1 dose of Pneumovax-23 after you turn 65.
    • Special circumstances: 
      • If you have a chronic medical condition (listed below), you should get 1 dose of Pneumovax-23 between in ages of 19-64
        • Chronic heart (excluding high blood pressure), lung, or liver disease, diabetes, alcoholism, or cigarette smoking
      • If you are 19+ and are immunocompromised, you should get:
        • 1 dose of Prevnar-13, wait 8 weeks, then get 1 dose of Pneumovax-23, wait 5 years, then get 1 more dose of Pneumovax-23

Who keeps track of all of my shots?

  • In short, the best person to keep track of the vaccines that you get is yourself. This is much easier said than done. I recommend writing down the shot name and date on a piece of paper that stays in your wallet. That way you’ll always have the information available when needed.
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