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Get Important Shots

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The Basics

Adults need shots (vaccinations) just like kids do. Next time you get a checkup, talk with the doctor or nurse about getting these important shots.

  • Get a flu shot every year. The seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and others from the flu.
  • Get a Td booster shot every 10 years to protect against tetanus (“TET-nes”) and diphtheria (“dif-THEER-ee-ah”).
  • If you are under age 65 and haven’t received it yet, get the Tdap shot instead of your next Td booster. Tdap protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough (pertussis).
  • If you are age 60 or older, you may need a shot to prevent shingles. Shingles causes a rash and can lead to pain that lasts for months or years.
  • If you are age 65 or older, get a pneumonia shot. This shot is sometimes called PPSV. Most people only need to get the shot once.

Why do I need to get these shots?
There are 2 main reasons to get your shots.

  1. The shots you got as a child can weaken or wear off over time. That’s why it’s important to get “booster” shots as an adult.
  2. As you get older, your body needs more protection from illnesses like pneumonia (“noo-MOHN-yah”) and shingles.

All of the recommended adult shots help prevent serious diseases. For example, getting a tetanus shot will protect you from tetanus, an infection that can sometimes lead to death. You can get tetanus if you get a deep cut from a piece of metal, like a nail.

Protect yourself by staying up-to-date on your 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 as a child
  • Have a health condition like HIV that makes it harder for your body to fight infection
  • Have a health condition like diabetes or heart, lung, or liver disease
  • Are pregnant
  • Are a man who has sex with men
  • Smoke
  • Spend time with infants, young children, or older adults
  • Work in a school, hospital, prison, or health clinic
  • Travel outside the United States

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

Take Action!

Talk with a doctor or nurse about getting your shots.

Find out which shots you need.
Take this quiz to find out which shots you need. Print out the results and take them with you to your next checkup. Make a plan with your doctor or nurse to get your shots.

Get a seasonal flu shot every year.
Everyone age 6 months and older needs to get the seasonal flu vaccine every year.

What about cost?
Many shots for adults are covered under the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010. Depending on your insurance plan, you may be able to get your shots at no cost to you.

  • If you have Medicare or private insurance, check to find out what’s included in your plan. Ask about the Affordable Care Act.
  • If you don’t have insurance, you still may be able to get free shots.

For information about other services covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit

Keep a copy of your vaccination record.
You and your doctor are the only ones keeping track of the vaccinations (shots) you receive. Ask your doctor to print out a record of your vaccinations. Keep this record in a safe place.

If you aren’t sure which shots you’ve already received, try these tips for finding old vaccination records.

Learn more about getting screened and taking charge of your health.

Start Today: Small Steps

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Content last updated on: September 13, 2012

National Health Information Center

P.O. Box 1133, Washington, DC 20013-1133