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Adult vaccinations: A guide to staying healthy

Adult after receiving a vaccine

Vaccinations are a cornerstone of adult health, offering protection against multiple diseases that can affect quality of life and longevity. As we age, the immunity we gained from childhood vaccinations can wane, leaving us vulnerable to infections. Moreover, lifestyle changes, travel and age-related health changes introduce new risks that adult vaccinations can make less severe or painful.


Consider this your guide to the essential vaccines for adults, along with a recommended adult vaccination schedule, and where to get adult vaccines, helping shield you against preventable diseases.


Need to make sure you’re up to date on your vaccines? Make an appointment with a primary care doctor or nurse practitioner who is accepting new patients.


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What is an adult immunization?

Adult immunizations aim to protect adults from various preventable diseases that they may have been vaccinated against as children. It also is intended to protect against diseases that are more common or more dangerous in adulthood. 

Importance of adult immunization

Adult immunization plays a pivotal role in public health in the United States, extending beyond the years of childhood to offer protection throughout an individual’s lifespan. Here's why it's so crucial:


Continued protection for individuals. Immunity from some childhood vaccines can wear off over time, necessitating booster shots to maintain protection against diseases such as tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough).


Protection against adult diseases. Certain vaccines are specifically recommended for adults due to the increased risk or severity of diseases in adulthood, such as the shingles vaccine recommended for adults age 50 and older.


Preventing spread to vulnerable populations. By getting vaccinated, adults can also help protect those who are more vulnerable in the community, such as infants, the elderly or those with weakened immune systems, by reducing the overall presence of diseases.


Travel and lifestyle considerations. Adults may need specific vaccines based on travel plans, occupational hazards, lifestyle factors or certain health and medical conditions that put them at increased risk for certain infections.


Keeping adults updated on immunizations is crucial for their health and the health of the community. Through adult immunization, we can continue to combat and prevent the spread of infectious diseases across all ages.

Recommended vaccines for adults

Adults may need different vaccines depending on their age, health, lifestyle, travel plans and previous vaccinations. Your primary care provider can help you identify the appropriate vaccines based on these and other factors specific to your needs, as well as answer questions about immunizations.

Common adult immunizations doctors recommend include:

Influenza (Flu) vaccine

One dose annually.

COVID-19 vaccine

Everyone eligible should receive the COVID-19 vaccine to protect themselves and their loved ones. Talk to your primary care doctor as recommendations change based on age, a person’s immune system, previous vaccinations and the manufacture of the vaccine.

Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine 

With a one-time booster of Tdap followed by a tetanus and diphtheria (Td) booster every 10 years.

Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine 

Adults born in 1957 or later, who did not receive the MMR vaccine during their childhood, should consider getting this one-time, single-dose vaccine. This is especially important if they are near children or if they plan to travel abroad.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine 

For males and females up to age 26 and some up to 45, this one-time, three-dose series protects against diseases caused by HPV.

Shingles (zoster) vaccine 

Single-dose vaccine for adults 50 years and older to protect against shingles, a painful rash of blister-like sores that has no cure. A newer vaccine, Shingrix, is also now available as a two-dose vaccine. Both vaccines offer lifetime protection.

Pneumococcal vaccine (for pneumonia)

Recommended for all adults over age 65 and for younger adults with certain health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) that place them at increased risk of pneumonia. The frequency of vaccination depends on the patient’s age, health status and vaccination history.

Hepatitis A and B vaccines 

A series of three or four shots is recommended for adults at risk of infection, including travelers to certain countries, health care workers and individuals with certain medical conditions such as diabetes or kidney disease. A doctor can help determine if future boosters are necessary.

Varicella (chicken pox) vaccine 

This two-dose vaccine offers long-lasting protection to those who have not had chicken pox or been vaccinated against the virus, or who suspect they have been exposed to chicken pox. Health care workers and others who are potentially exposed to chicken pox long after their initial vaccination may benefit from a booster dose.

Meningococcal vaccine 

Health experts recommend the vaccine for individuals at a higher risk of getting sick. This includes college students living in dorms and people traveling to areas with high rates of meningococcal disease. The number and timing of doses depends on the vaccine type selected and an individual’s risk factors. While immunity can last for several years, a booster may be necessary for continued protection.

RSV (respiratory syncytial virus)

Adults aged 60 and older, as well as those with chronic lung or heart diseases, should discuss the RSV vaccine with their primary care provider to prevent respiratory infections. While RSV is not currently on the recommended vaccine schedule, it can offer long-term protection for individuals who are vulnerable to RSV infection and resulting complications.

For additional information, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides an adult immunization schedule for adults aged 19 and older.

Where to get adult vaccines

Adults can update their vaccines through several avenues, ensuring they protect themselves against various diseases. Here’s how and where to get adult vaccinations:

Primary care provider

Your primary care doctor is the best place to start. They have your medical history and can recommend vaccines based on your age, health status and risk factors. They can administer most vaccines during a regular appointment.

Convenient Care

BJC Medical Group Convenient Care clinics provide the flu, tetanus and Tdap vaccinations and are open seven days per week, including evenings. Patients can schedule online or walk in to receive these immunization services. If you are a BJC HealthCare patient, you can access all your immunization records through the MyChart portal.


Retail pharmacies are an option for obtaining adult vaccines, such as flu shots, shingles vaccines and RSV vaccines, but may not have a complete inventory of every vaccine you require.  Be sure to check with your primary care provider first as they will have access to your comprehensive medical history, including family health background and allergies, which are essential in determining the safety and appropriateness of vaccines for adults. This information is important when considering vaccines such as those for COVID-19 and other routine immunizations. 

Public health clinics

Local health departments and public health clinics often provide vaccinations, sometimes at reduced costs for those without insurance. These clinics play a crucial role in making vaccinations accessible to all parts of the community.

Travel abroad clinics

You may be able to get some travel vaccines from your primary care provider, but because some diseases prevented by routine vaccinations are not common in the United States, you may need to go to a travel medicine specialist. Vaccines such as yellow fever, typhoid or hepatitis A could be recommended if you are planning to travel overseas. The CDC provides vaccine recommendations for specific destinations around the world.

Workplace and college health centers

Some employers and educational institutions offer vaccination programs to prevent flu and other diseases. These settings can be options for receiving vaccinations without having to make a separate appointment elsewhere.

Community health events

Keep an eye out for health fairs and community events that may offer vaccinations, such as free flu shots. These events provide great opportunities for individuals to get vaccinated.

How to stay on your adult vaccine schedule
Check your vaccination status. 

Review your medical records or contact your health care provider to determine which vaccines you need.

Verify your insurance coverage.

Verify your insurance coverage for vaccinations. Most insurance plans cover recommended vaccines without a copay, as part of preventive care.

Keep a vaccine record. 

Keeping an immunization record will save you time and unnecessary hassle. If possible, bring your vaccination record to your appointment. This helps health care providers recommend the correct vaccines and update your records accurately. If you are a BJC HealthCare patient, you can access all your immunizations through the MyChart portal.

Make an appointment with a primary care provider.

A primary care provider can make sure you get the right vaccines for your age, health and lifestyle. Don’t have one? Find a primary care doctor or nurse practitioner near you who is taking new patients and schedule an appointment online.


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Find a walk-in clinic. 

You can take advantage of walk-in options at pharmacies or reserve a time at a BJC Medical Group Convenient Care location near you.


Staying up to date with vaccinations is a critical part of preventive health care for adults. Not only do vaccines protect individuals, but they also contribute to the overall health of the community by preventing the spread of infectious diseases. Regular vaccination is an effective strategy for maintaining health, preventing serious diseases and ensuring a vibrant, active life. 


A BJC primary care provider serves as your health partner, providing preventive health care and treatment for illnesses, injuries and chronic conditions. If you do not have one, find a primary care provider accepting new patients. Learn more.

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