Immunizations

Older adults need to get shots (vaccines) to prevent serious diseases. Protect your health by getting all your shots on schedule.

If you are age 60 or older:

If you are age 65 or older:

Need for Shots

Shots help protect you against diseases that can be serious and sometimes deadly. Many of these diseases are common.

Even if you have always gotten your shots on schedule, you still need to get some shots as an older adult. This is because:

Getting Your Shots 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 weak immune system (the system in the body that fights infections).

Protect yourself and those around you by staying up to date on your shots.

When to Take Shots

You may need other shots if you:

Ask your doctor or nurse if you need any other shots.

Take Action!

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.

Get a Seasonal Flu Shot Every Year

Remember, everyone—6 months and older—needs to get the seasonal flu vaccine every year.

What about Cost?

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the healthcare reform law passed in 2010, 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.

If you don't have insurance, you still may be able to get free shots.

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 aren't sure which shots you've had, try finding old vaccination records. If you still can't find a record of your shots, talk with your doctor about getting some shots again.

Shots Recommended for Senior Adults

As you get older, your doctor may recommend vaccinations—shots—to help prevent certain illnesses and to keep you healthy.

Talk with your doctor about which of the following shots you need. And, make sure to protect yourself by keeping your vaccinations up to date.

Flu

Flu—short for influenza—is a virus that can cause fever, chills, sore throat, stuffy nose, headache, and muscle aches. Flu is very serious when it gets in your lungs.

The flu is easy to pass from person to person. The virus also changes over time, which means you can get it over and over again. That's why most people (age 6 months and older) should get the flu shot each year.

Get your shot between September and November. Then, you may be protected when the winter flu season starts.

Pneumococcal Disease

Pneumococcal disease is a serious infection that spreads from person to person by air. It often causes pneumonia in the lungs, and it can affect other parts of the body.

Most people age 65 and older should get a pneumococcal shot to help prevent getting the disease. It's generally safe and can be given at the same time as the flu shot. Usually, people only need the shot once. But, if you were younger than age 65 when you had the shot, you may need a second one to stay protected.

Tetanus and Diphtheria

Tetanus (sometimes called lockjaw) is caused by bacteria found in soil, dust, and manure. It enters the body through cuts in the skin.

Diphtheria is also caused by bacteria. It is a serious illness that can affect the tonsils, throat, nose, or skin. It can spread from person to person.

Both tetanus and diphtheria can lead to death.

Getting a shot is the best way to keep from getting tetanus and diphtheria. Most people get their first shots as children. For adults, a booster shot every 10 years will keep you protected. Ask your doctor if and when you need a booster shot.

Measles, Mumps, and Rubella

Measles, mumps, and rubella are viruses that cause several flulike symptoms, but may lead to much more serious, long-term health problems, especially in adults.

The vaccine given to children to prevent measles, mumps, and rubella has made these diseases rare. If you don't know if you've had the diseases or the shot, you can still get the vaccine.

Shots for Travel

Check with your doctor or local health department about shots you will need if traveling to other countries. Sometimes, a series of shots is needed. It's best to get them at least 2 weeks before you travel.

Side Effects of Shots

Common side effects for all these shots are mild and include pain, swelling, or redness where the shot was given.

Before getting any vaccine, make sure it's safe for you. Talk with your doctor about your health history, including past illnesses and treatments, as well as any allergies.

It's a good idea to keep your own shot record, listing the types and dates of your shots, along with any side effects or problems.

This chapter contains text excerpted from the following sources: Text in this chapter begins with excerpts from “Get Shots to Protect Your Health (for Older Adults),” Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), January 31, 2017; Text beginning with the heading “Shots Recommended for Senior Adults” is excerpted from “Shots for Safety,” National Institute on Aging (NIA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), July 6, 2017.

  This information is not a tool for self-diagnosis or a substitute for professional care.