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Adult Immunizations

Are Your Own Shots Up-To-Date?


Updated November 20, 2003

Parents are often very aware of what shots their kids need, but adult immunization awareness is not thought to be very important by most people, including some doctors.

Immunizations for adults are important though. It is estimated that up to 60,000 adults die in the United States from vaccine-preventable diseases or their complications.

What shots do adults need?

Depending on their age, number of medical problems, and previous history, adults may need a:
  • Meningococcal vaccine
  • Tetanus-Diphtheria vaccine every 10 years
  • Influenza vaccine yearly (especially age 50 and older)
  • Pneumococcal vaccine (age 65 and older)
  • Hepatitis B vaccine (at risk adults)
  • Hepatitis A vaccine (at risk adults)
  • Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine
  • Varicella (chicken pox) vaccine
Vaccines that are not commonly given to adults include the polio vaccine and the Haemophilus Influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine. Also, pertussis is not usually given to children over age 7 years.

Meningococcal vaccine

This vaccine, to prevent meningitis, is recommended for at risk adults (usually those with immune system problems), and college students living in a dorm.


Teens usually get a tetanus-diphtheria shot at around age 12. Since it is recommended that adults get tetanus boosters every 10 years, most adults will be due for another shot in their early twenties. You may also need a tetanus shot if you receive a dirty (contaminated with soil, saliva or feces) wound and it has been more than 5 years since your last one.

The bacteria that causes tetanus is usually found in soil and animal intestines, so if you are a gardener or regularly handle animals, staying current on your tetanus immunizations would be especially important.


A yearly flu shot is recommended for at risk adults and anyone else who wants to decrease their chances of getting the flu.

Pneumococcal vaccine

The Pneumovax or Pnu-immune vaccine should be given to prevent pneumonia and other infections in at risk children and adults, including:
  • anyone who is 65 years old or older
persons aged 2-64 years who:
  • have immune system problems
  • have chronic illnesses, such as CHF, COPD, diabetes, cirrhosis or CSF leaks
  • have asplenia (functional or anatomic), such as patients with sickle cell anemia or who have had a splenectomy
  • are living in environments or social settings that put that at risk, including
  • Alaskan Natives and certain American Indians, and residents of nursing homes.

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