From a Family Doctor: Adults Need Vaccines Too

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Doctors’ Notes

Real stories by real family physicians

It’s true that most vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are given to children during routine pediatric visits. But adults need them too because protection from childhood vaccinations may lessen as you age, and you may need additional vaccines every year, for example, to help protect you from seasonal diseases like the flu.

Many adults aren’t aware that they even need to get vaccinated. Data show that at least three out of every four U.S. adults are missing one or more CDC-recommended vaccines, potentially putting their health at risk.

In particular, adults who are 65 years and older have a higher risk of complications if they get the flu or pneumococcal pneumonia. The CDC estimates that influenza has resulted in 140,000–810,000 hospitalizations each year since the 2010-2011 flu season through the 2019-2020 flu season. Approximately 50–70% of these hospitalizations were among adults 65 years and older.

Vaccines work for adults like they work for children: they help your body build up protection against certain diseases. Vaccines can help protect you from getting seriously ill and can be important if you have any chronic health conditions that increase your risk for serious complications.

Curious about what vaccines you may need? Complete the CDC’s Adult Vaccine Assessment Tool, a quick questionnaire for adults 19 years or older. You can also review the CDC’s Immunization Schedules for Adults, which is frequently validated by vaccine experts. This is the vaccine guide for all family doctors.

Here are other things for you to consider when making decisions about your health and getting vaccinated:

  • Scheduling an annual check-up is important to your health. It’s your time to ask questions and discuss concerns, and it’s also an opportunity for your family doctor to walk you through the vaccines you may need.
  • If you’re hesitant or unable to make an in-person appointment to get your vaccines, contact your doctor’s office. There are options, and our priority is to get you the health care you need.
  • It’s okay to have questions about vaccines. Your family doctor is the best source for your health information.
  • According to the CDC, vaccines have been proven to be safe. Significant research goes into every vaccine, and the CDC is constantly monitoring the safety of vaccines. Your family doctor can help answer any questions you may have about vaccine safety for you and your family.
  • Vaccines can cause brief and sometimes mild symptoms, like fever or pain at the injection site. Your family doctor will tell you what to expect before you receive one or more vaccinations.
  • Certain factors will determine the vaccines you may need. Your family doctor will look at your age, job, travel plans, and health risks to recommend the right vaccines that help protect you from illness.
  • If you’re missing vaccinations because of cost or lack of insurance, places like public health clinics and federally qualified health centers in your community can help. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers guidance on its How to Pay website.

When you get vaccinated, you’re helping to create a community of immunity. Vaccines can help protect you and those around you. Your family doctor can answer your questions and help you determine which CDC-recommended immunizations you need.


This note was developed as a collaboration between the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and Pfizer, Inc.