Some Things You Outgrow as an Adult. Vaccines Aren’t One of Them.
Aug 17, 2017


Did you know that vaccines are recommended for people of all ages?

Even if you were fully vaccinated as a child, the protection from some vaccines you received can wear off over time and you may need a booster. There also are specific vaccines that you may need as you get older based on your age, job, lifestyle, travel, or other health conditions.

Below are 5 reasons adults need vaccines:


1) Every year, thousands of adults in the U.S. suffer serious health problems, are hospitalized, or even die from preventable diseases.

Much of this could be avoided if more adults received their recommended vaccines. While most adults recognize the need for childhood vaccinations, many adults simply don’t realize that vaccines are recommended to protect against diseases like whooping cough, hepatitis A and B, pneumococcal disease, shingles and influenza.

The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that vaccination rates for adults are extremely low (National Health Interview Survey, 2014).


Higher vaccination rates could help avoid the many cases of vaccine preventable diseases that adults suffer with each year.  For example, in 2015 there were about 27,000 cases of invasive pneumococcal disease and 3,300 deaths among adults. In 2016, there were more than 15,000 cases of whooping cough reported to the CDC.  Additionally, there are about 1 million cases of shingles and millions of cases of influenza that occur each year in the U.S.

2) Certain health conditions can put adults at greater risk of complications if they do get sick. 

As we go through life we’re often diagnosed with certain health conditions that put us at increased risk for complications from diseases such as pneumonia and influenza.  This includes conditions such as heart disease, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and diabetes. Even if we feel we have those conditions under control, it is best to get vaccinated to prevent an illness that can complicate these conditions and cause severe illness, hospitalization or even death.

3)  Adults are more likely to contract certain diseases.

As we age, we also become more likely to suffer with diseases such as shingles or pneumococcal disease.  That is why adults 65 and older are recommended to receive one or more pneumococcal vaccines, and those 60 years and older should get a shingles vaccine.


Most adults today have suffered with chickenpox at some point in their childhoood, which means the zoster virus lies dormant in the roots of their nerves.  In some people, the virus “wakes up” many years later and causes a very painful rash known as shingles.  The severity of the rash varies but can last from 2 to 4 weeks.  It can also result in long lasting nerve pain after the rash clears. It’s estimated that 1 out of 3 people in the U.S. will develop shingles in their lifetime, resulting in about 1 million cases of shingles each year, but vaccination can help reduce some of this suffering.

The fact is that even healthy adults are hospitalized and die from preventable diseases every year.  That is why an annual flu vaccine is recommended for every adult, including those who are pregnant, to help prevent flu and flu related complications and hospitalizations.

Additionally, every adult should have at least one dose of Tdap vaccine (to protect against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis or whooping cough).  Some adults may even need additional adult Tdap boosters if they get pregnant or have close contact with children.

Adults may need other vaccines (such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and HPV) depending on their age, occupation, travel, medical conditions, vaccinations they have already received, or other considerations.

4) Adults can easily spread diseases to others. 


Not only can otherwise healthy adults get sick, but when they do they risk spreading dangerous diseases to others – especially infants, young children, the elderly and people with chronic conditions or weakened immune systems (like those undergoing cancer treatment). Unfortunately, these populations are not only more vulnerable to infectious diseases, but if they get sick they are also more likely to have severe illness and complications.

Consider pertussis, also known as whooping cough.  In an adult, this vaccine preventable disease may seem like a persistent cough and bad cold, whereas for a young infant, pertussis often results in hospitalization and even death.  By getting vaccinated, adults can protect themselves while also reducing the spread of diseases and helping to protect other vulnerable members of their family and community.

5) If adults don’t take responsibility for themselves, no one else will.

Adults have varied responsibilities and missing work or being unable to care for our families is something most adults just can’t afford to do.  Even for those adults who do realize they need additional vaccines, there are challenges to staying up-to-date. As adults, we tend to worry about day-to-day things and are busy caring for our families, so we don’t often think about preventive measures that can help keep us healthy. That’s why it’s critical for adults to talk to their doctor or other health care professional to learn more about which vaccines they may need based on their age, occupation, travel, health conditions, past vaccination status and other specific considerations.

Take the CDC’s adult vaccine quiz here to learn more about the vaccines you may need.  Then bring the customized printout with you to your next adult medical appointment to help discuss the vaccines you may need.

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