The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that thousands of adults are hospitalized every year because of diseases that vaccines can prevent.
You may be at risk for some diseases that affect adults when childhood immunizations wear off. And, just as with children, adults should get vaccinated against certain illnesses at certain ages (for instance, over age 50 for shingles).
Finally, sometimes a brand-new illness like COVID-19 requires brand-new shots.
Here are answers to FAQs that will give you insights into why vaccinations are so important for adults.
Are there any vaccines all adults should have?
Yes, there are at least two:
- All adults need an influenza (flu) vaccine every year. The flu can develop into a serious illness leading to a hospital stay or worse. A yearly flu vaccine is the primary way to protect yourself against the flu. If you’re concerned about flu vaccine safety, know that millions of Americans have safely gotten flu shots for over 50 years.
- You should have a Tdap vaccine to protect against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough). Adults get one dose of Tdap, then a Td booster for tetanus and diphtheria every 10 years. (The versions for babies and children younger than age 7 are called DT and DTaP.)
Why are vaccines so important for adults?
As mentioned earlier, every year thousands of U.S. adults become very ill with preventable illnesses and need to go to the hospital. For instance, according to the CDC, there have been an estimated 140,000 to 710,000 flu-related stays in U.S. hospitals since 2010. Just a single annual vaccination against the flu can help keep you from dealing with discomfort, costly medical bills and potentially dangerous flu-related complications.
Certain vaccines can also lower the chances that you’ll spread disease. You may come in contact with family members, friends, coworkers or others who can't get vaccinated due to a health condition, age or religious beliefs. By getting a vaccine, you can help protect more vulnerable people.
What diseases can vaccines help prevent?
Adults need different vaccinations for various reasons and at different ages and stages of life. Whether you need to be vaccinated depends on where you live, your job, your travel schedule, your health conditions and your previous vaccinations.
Check with your doctor to see which diseases you may need a vaccine for, including:
- Chickenpox (varicella)
- Flu (influenza)
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- HPV (human papillomavirus)
- Pneumococcal disease
- Polio (poliomyelitis)
- SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19)
- Shingles (herpes zoster)
- Tetanus (lockjaw)
- Whooping cough (pertussis)
Are vaccines safe?
Vaccines are tested before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) licenses them to be used. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and FDA track all licensed vaccines for safety on an ongoing basis.
Vaccines may cause side effects, but they're usually mild. The most common include:
- Swelling where the shot was administered
- Mild aches, pains, chills, fatigue and/or fever
Vaccines are one of the safest ways to protect your health. Ask your doctor about the vaccines you should get.