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Tdap and 3 Other Vaccinations Adults Need

Your risk of catching certain illnesses changes as you age. Here are four vital shots for people 18 and older.

A nurse puts a bandage on a man’s arm after he receives one of the recommended vaccines for adults.

Medically reviewed in October 2022

Updated on October 12, 2022

Here’s a worrying statistic: Between 2010 and 2016, less than half of American adults were getting their recommended vaccinations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And that was before routine immunizations were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

How about you? Do you know what shots you should be getting? Or when to get them? Here’s the lowdown.

To know: The following vaccines are almost always covered by private insurance. If you are enrolled in Medicare Part B or Part D, check with your drug plan provider regarding coverage. 

Flu shot
This one’s a no-brainer: Get your annual flu shot. Not only does the vaccine help you avoid the flu, it reduces your risk of heart disease, according to Michael Roizen, MD, Chief Wellness Officer at the Cleveland Clinic and a Sharecare advisory board member. 

Having a flu shot is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic. It lowers your chances of developing the flu and COVID-19 simultaneously and eases the burden on healthcare providers (HCPs). 

The best time to be vaccinated for the flu is by the end of October, according to the CDC. But it’s never too late. Getting it in late fall or winter is better than skipping it entirely.

With some exceptions, everyone aged 6 months and up should have a flu shot.

Tetanus booster
In 2012, there were 48,277 reported cases of whooping cough (pertussis) in the United States—the worst count since 1955. The number dropped to 18,617 by 2019.  

While whooping cough (pertussis) can be deadly for babies, it isn’t fatal in adults. But it can cause coughing for months and may even result in broken ribs.

The best way to stay protected is to get your every-10-year tetanus booster (Tdap). This usually includes a pertussis and diphtheria booster, says Kelly Traver, MD, an internal medicine specialist in Menlo Park, California. Another option: If you received a Tdap vaccine at age 11 or afterwards, you can choose to get a Td booster (tetanus and diphtheria only) instead of the Tdap booster.

To note: Whatever their Tdap vaccine history, it’s recommended that pregnant people receive the vaccine between Weeks 27 and 36 of pregnancy—the earlier, the better.

Shingles vaccine
Shingles is a red, blistering, painful rash that often develops on the face, neck, and sides of the torso. The rash itself typically takes between two and four weeks to clear up, but nerve pain can linger for months afterward. Sometimes, it can be debilitating.

About one-third of adults will have shingles at some point, according to the CDC, and your risk increases as you age. Fortunately, the Shingrix vaccine offers strong protection against the virus that causes shingles. If you’re 50 or older, ask your HCP about Shingrix, even if you’ve received a different shot in previous years. 

Pneumococcal vaccination
Pneumonia carries serious risks for older adults. Whatever your history with pneumococcal vaccines, ask your provider about being vaccinated if you’re:

  • Age 65 or older
  • Between ages 19 and 64 and a smoker 
  • Between 19 and 64 and have certain health conditions, including diabetes and heart disease
Article sources open article sources

Vaccines.gov. How to Pay. 2020. 
Medicare.gov. Is my test, item, or service covered? 2020. 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccination Coverage Among Adults in the United States, National Health Interview Survey, 2016. February 8, 2018. 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Who Needs a Flu Vaccine and When. September 14, 2020. 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pertussis (Whopping Cough): Complications. August 7, 2017. 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pertussis (Whopping Cough): Pertussis Cases by Year (1922-2018). August 7, 2017. 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccines and Preventable Diseases: Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Whooping Cough Vaccination: What Everyone Should Know. January 22, 2020.
FP Havers, PL Moro, et al. Use of Tetanus Toxoid, Reduced Diphtheria Toxoid, and Acellular Pertussis Vaccines: Updated Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices — United States, 2019. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. January 24, 2020. Vol. 69. No. 3.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Shingles (Herpes Zoster): Signs & Symptoms. July 1, 2019. 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Shingles (Herpes Zoster): Get the New Shingrix Vaccine If You Are 50 or Older. July 2, 2019. 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Shingles (Herpes Zoster): Vaccination. July 1, 2019. 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pneumococcal Vaccine Timing for Adults. June 25, 2020. 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pneumococcal Disease: Pneumococcal Vaccination. November 21, 2019. 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccines and Preventable Diseases: Pneumococcal Vaccination: What Everyone Should Know. August 7, 2020. 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pregnancy and Vaccination: Vaccines and Pregnancy: 8 Things You Need to Know. Last reviewed April 14, 2022.

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