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The Vaccines You Need at 50+

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

Hepatitis B vaccine

Who needs it: Adults 50 and older who are at risk for contracting hepatitis B. You are at risk if you:

  • Have sex with partners who are infected with hepatitis B
  • Are a man who has sex with other men
  • Have more than one sex partner
  • Inject street drugs
  • Have chronic liver or kidney disease
  • Are under age 60 and have diabetes
  • Have a job that exposes you to human blood or other body fluids
  • Live with people who have contact with people infected with hepatitis B
  • Live or work in institutions for the developmentally disabled
  • Are on kidney dialysis
  • Travel to countries where hepatitis B is common
  • Have HIV infection

How often: Adults getting hepatitis B vaccine should get 3 doses — with the second dose given 4 weeks after the first and the third dose 5 months after the second.

Notes: Get a booster if you are unsure of your immunization status.

Do not get the vaccine if you:

  • Have a life-threatening allergy to yeast, or to any other component of the vaccine
  • Have had a life-threatening allergic reaction to a previous dose of hepatitis B vaccine
  • Are moderately or severely ill when a dose of vaccine is scheduled

Meningococcal vaccine

Who needs it: Adults 50 and older who were never vaccinated. You are at increased risk for meningitis if you:

  • Are a college freshman living in a dormitory
  • Work in a laboratory in which you are routinely exposed to meningococcal bacteria
  • Are a U.S. military recruit
  • Are traveling to, or living in, a part of the world where meningococcal disease is common, such as parts of Africa
  • Have a damaged spleen, or your spleen has been removed
  • Have persistent complement component deficiency (an immune system disorder)
  • Have or may have been exposed to meningitis during an outbreak

How often: Once

Notes: If you are age 50-55 and have never been vaccinated, you should receive the meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4), which is effective for life. People over age 55 should receive the polysaccharide vaccine (MPSV4), which provides three to five years of immunity; this is the only meningococcal vaccine licensed for people over age 55. Talk to your doctor about whether you should get this vaccine if you travel to countries with high incidence of hepatitis B; have had your spleen removed; or have certain blood deficiencies.

Pneumococcal vaccine (pneumonia)

Who needs it: Everyone age 65 and older, and people 50 and over with certain risk factors.

How often: Once

Notes: You should talk to your doctor about getting this vaccine if you are a smoker or have serious health problems, including chronic lung or heart disease, diabetes, asthma, leukemia, lymphoma or alcoholism. If you work around chronically ill people — for example, in a hospital or nursing home — you should get the vaccine even if you are healthy.

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