Navigating vaccines as an adult 

Author: Julia Miller, manager of inpatient pharmacy at IU Health North

Vaccinations aren’t just for the young—they are an essential pillar of health maintenance, particularly as we age. For individuals aged 55 and older, staying up to date with vaccinations can significantly fortify overall well-being.Vaccination

Addressing common concerns

It’s understandable that many people are nervous to introduce vaccines into their bodies. Two common concerns are safety and vaccine efficacy, or how effective it will be. Most vaccine side effects are quite mild and could include things such as arm pain or a fever. Severe or persisting side effects are rare. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) constantly monitors vaccine side effects.

No vaccine can fully protect you from a disease all the time. This is especially true for vaccines focusing on viruses that change often, such as influenza and COVID-19. Even if you do experience infection, the vaccine should lower the severity of the sickness.

Know which vaccines are recommended

There are several vaccines recommended for adults. They include:

  • Influenza (Flu) Vaccine: Annual flu shots are highly recommended for adults. People over 65 years of age should receive a higher dose flu vaccine.
  • COVID-19 Vaccine: For individuals aged 55 and above, getting vaccinated against COVID-19 remains a critical step in safeguarding against severe illness, hospitalization and complications associated with the virus.
  • Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis (Tdap) Vaccine: A one-time Tdap vaccine booster is suggested for adults who haven’t received it previously, followed by a tetanus-diphtheria (Td) or Tdap booster every ten years. This vaccine guards against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough.
  • Measles, Mumps and Rubella Vaccines: All Adults born after 1957 without a previous vaccine or laboratory evidence of immunity or disease should be vaccinated with MMR. This is a live vaccine and should not be given if a person is immunocompromised.
  • Varicella (Chickenpox) Vaccine: Adults with no evidence of immunity to varicella should get this vaccine.
  • Shingles Vaccine: Shingles, caused by the varicella-zoster virus, can cause a painful rash and long-term nerve pain, especially in older adults. The shingles vaccine, available as Shingrix, is recommended for individuals aged 50 and older.
  • Pneumococcal Vaccine: Pneumococcal disease can lead to pneumonia, meningitis, and bloodstream infections, posing heightened risks for older individuals. The CDC recommends two pneumococcal vaccines for those over 65.
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Vaccines: Adults 60 years and older are recommended to receive a single dose of RSV vaccine if their healthcare provider thinks it would be beneficial.
  • Hepatitis Vaccines: Multiple two, three and four dose vaccine series are available for Hepatitis A and B. Adults under 60 are recommended to get one of the series of hepatitis B vaccines. Adults older than 60 with certain risk factors should receive a hepatitis B vaccine. All other adults 60 and older may receive the series. Hepatitis A vaccines are not routinely recommended for most adults.

VaccinationIt is important to consider your individual health status, allergies, and potential interactions with existing medications. Ask your primary care provider or pharmacist which vaccinations make the most sense for your specific health needs. To find a provider near you, visit

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