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The Vaccines You Need at 50+

Here are details on the ones to get, the ones to skip

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En español | If the word “vaccination” evokes images of childhood, it may be time to raise the subject with your doctor. It’s not just kid stuff: All adults — including those age 50 and older — need vaccines. And some of the adult vaccine recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have changed recently. So even if you think you’ve been keeping up with your vaccines, you’ll want to review the CDC’s list of vaccine recommendations.

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the vaccines you need at 50+

Make sure you're up-to-date on the vaccinations you need. — Photo by Jeffrey Hamilton/Getty Images

Influenza vaccine

Who needs it: Everyone over 6 months of age unless you:

  • Have had a severe reaction to the flu shot in the past
  • Are allergic to eggs
  • Have a fever. If you do, wait until you are no longer sick to get the vaccine.

How often: Annually

Notes: Flu kills around 36,000 people every year in the United States, and older Americans are among the most vulnerable groups. Because each year’s vaccine is formulated to combat that season’s influenza strains, you should get a dose every year. Flu shots are given during the September-to-March flu season. If you are 50 or older, don’t get the nasal spray form of the vaccine, which did not prove effective in clinical trials in people over age 49.

Td (tetanus, diphtheria) and Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) vaccines

Who needs it: Everyone

How often: Once for Tdap; once every 10 years for Td booster

Notes: If you’ve never received a Tdap vaccine, you should be vaccinated once, even if you are over age 65 (this is a change from CDC’s prior guidance). Due to a rise in pertussis, or whooping cough, cases in the United States, the Tdap vaccine is especially crucial for people who have close contact with infants younger than 12 months of age -— including parents, grandparents, and child-care providers. If you have received Tdap in the past, you should get a Td booster every 10 years.

Talk to your doctor before getting the vaccine if you:

  • Have epilepsy or other nervous system problems
  • Had severe swelling or pain after a prior dose of Tdap/Td vaccine
  • Have or have had Guillain-Barre syndrome

Next: Herpes zoster (shingles) vaccine. »

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