The Basics: Overview
Older adults need to get shots (vaccines) to prevent serious diseases. Protect your health by getting all your shots on schedule.
If you're age 50 or older:
- Get shots to prevent shingles. Shingles causes a painful rash that can last for months. Learn about shingles vaccines.
If you're age 65 or older:
- Get shots to prevent pneumococcal ("noo-muh-KOK-uhl") disease. Pneumococcal disease can include pneumonia (“noo-MOHN-yah”), meningitis, and blood infections. Learn about pneumococcal shots.
It’s also important for all adults to:
- Get a flu vaccine every year. The seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and others from the flu.
- Get the Tdap shot to protect against tetanus, diphtheria (“dif-THEER-ee-ah”), and whooping cough (pertussis). Everyone needs to get the Tdap shot once. Learn about the Tdap shot.
- After you get a Tdap shot, get a Td shot every 10 years to keep you protected against tetanus and diphtheria. Learn about Td shots.
Ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist about other shots you may need to stay healthy.
The Basics: Health Benefits
Why do I need to get these shots?
Shots help protect you from diseases that can be serious – and sometimes deadly. Many of these diseases are common, but vaccines can prevent them.
Even if you have always gotten your shots on schedule, you still need to get some shots as an older adult. This is because:
- Older adults are more likely to get certain diseases.
- Older adults are at higher risk for serious complications from diseases.
- The protection from some shots can wear off over time.
Getting your shots also protects other people.
When you get shots, you don’t just protect yourself – you also protect others. This is especially important if you spend time around anyone with a long-term health problem or a weakened immune system (the system in the body that fights infections).
Protect yourself and people around you by staying up to date on your shots. Find out how getting your shots helps protect people in your community.
Learn more about some of the recommended shots for adults. Watch this short video to learn about pneumococcal vaccines:
And check out these short videos to learn more about:
The Basics: Other Shots
Do I need any other shots to help me stay healthy?
You may need other shots if you:
- Didn’t get all of your shots when you were a child
- Have a health condition like HIV that makes it harder for your body to fight off infections.
- Have a long-term health condition like diabetes or heart, lung, or liver disease
- Are a man who has sex with men
- Spend time with infants or young children
- Travel outside the United States
And you may need other shots if you work in a:
- Health clinic
- Nursing home
Ask your doctor or nurse if you need any other shots. You can also use this tool to find out which shots you may need.
Take Action: Make a Plan
Talk with a doctor, nurse, or pharmacist about getting up to date on your shots.
Make a plan to get your shots.
Schedule an appointment with your doctor or nurse to get the shots you need. You may also be able to get shots at your local pharmacy.
Use this vaccine clinic locator to find out where you can get shots.
Get a seasonal flu shot every year.
Remember, everyone age 6 months and older needs to get the seasonal flu vaccine every year.
What about cost?
Under the Affordable Care Act, most private insurance plans must cover recommended shots for adults. Depending on your insurance plan, you may be able to get your shots at no cost to you.
Medicare also covers most recommended shots for older adults, depending on your plan. Use this tool to see what Medicare covers.
If you don’t have insurance, you still may be able to get free shots.
- Find a free or low-cost vaccination program in your state.
- Find a health center near you and ask about affordable vaccine services.
To learn about other services covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit HealthCare.gov.
Take Action: Keep a Record
Keep a copy of your vaccination record.
Ask your doctor to print out a record of all the shots you've had. Keep this record in a safe place. You may need it for certain jobs or if you travel outside the United States.
If you're not sure which shots you’ve had, try these tips for finding old vaccination records. If you still can’t find a record of your shots, talk with your doctor about getting some shots again.
Content last updated October 15, 2020
This information on shots for older adults was adapted from materials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health Communication Science Office
National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention