Vaccination for adults

Vaccines are not just for babies and children. Learn why vaccination is important for adults too.

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Why vaccination is important for adults

Vaccination is not just for children. Vaccines are safe and protect you and those around you from vaccine-preventable diseases.

As we get older, the protection we had from previous vaccination can decrease for some diseases. Getting another dose (called a booster) can increase our immunity to provide the best protection. Some adults may have missed one or more of their vaccines when they were a child. They may need to catch up and get these vaccines now.

There are also diseases that are more common in adults, even healthy adults. This is why additional vaccines are needed as we get older.

By keeping up to date with vaccines, adults can prevent the spread of disease to those who may be more likely to contract them. These include:

  • babies
  • young children
  • pregnant women
  • people with certain medical conditions such as
    • those who have weakened immunity

This is known as community immunity or herd immunity.

Many Canadian adults are not up to date with their vaccines. Talk to your healthcare provider to see what you need to do to be fully protected.

Vaccines for adults

The type and number of vaccines an adult needs should be discussed with a healthcare provider. To determine if a vaccine is needed, a healthcare provider may ask:

  • what vaccines you had as a child
  • what diseases you may have had as a child or an adult
  • your current age
  • if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant
  • if you have certain medical conditions
  • if you have certain risks resulting from your lifestyle or type of work
  • if you are travelling

Vaccine-preventable diseases for which an adult may need a vaccine include:

  • diphtheria
  • hepatitis A
  • hepatitis B
  • herpes zoster (shingles)
  • human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • influenza
  • measles
  • mumps
  • meningococcal
  • pertussis (whooping cough)
  • pneumococcal
  • polio
  • rubella
  • tetanus
  • varicella (chicken pox)

Vaccines for women who could become pregnant

Vaccination is important for all women of reproductive age, whether you are planning a pregnancy or not. During pregnancy, your immune system changes and this can put you at risk for some serious infectious diseases and complications. Your baby can also be affected by these infections which can result in birth defects, premature birth, miscarriage (losing a baby before birth) or even death.

Since unplanned pregnancies are common, it is important to keep your vaccinations up to date in case you become pregnant. Being up to date with your vaccinations will help protect you and your baby from certain infections that could cause serious complications. Talk to your healthcare provider about your vaccination status. Learn more about Vaccination and Pregnancy.

Vaccines for adults 60 years of age and older

As we get older, our immune system can get weaker. This puts us at a greater risk for certain diseases, including influenza. The flu is more likely to cause severe illness and even death in older adults. Other vaccine-preventable diseases such as herpes zoster (shingles) and pneumococcal disease are more common with age. It is also important to make sure routine vaccines are up to date for diseases such as:

  • diphtheria
  • tetanus
  • pertussis

Vaccines for adult travellers

Travelling to other countries can increase your risk for certain diseases. Discuss your travel plans with your healthcare provider or a travel clinic as far ahead of departure as possible. 
Diseases common in other parts of the world that may be prevented by vaccination include:

  • cholera
  • hepatitis A
  • hepatitis B
  • Japanese encephalitis
  • meningococcal
  • rabies
  • tick-borne encephalitis
  • typhoid
  • yellow fever

Vaccine schedule for adults

It is recommended that adults get vaccinated for common diseases at certain stages of their life.

Recommended vaccines for all healthy adults

The following vaccines are recommended:

diphtheria and tetanus
every 10 years
herpes zoster (shingles)
1 dose at 60+ years (may be given between 50 and 59 years)
influenza (flu)
every year
pertussis (whooping cough)
1 dose as an adult and during each pregnancy
1 dose at 65+ years

Other vaccines you may need

You may also need to be vaccinated for:

hepatitis A Footnote *
1 dose (multiple doses may be required)
hepatitis B Footnote *
1 dose (multiple doses may be required)
human papillomavirus (HPV) Footnote *
1 dose at 26 years or younger
measles, mumps and rubella Footnote *
1 dose
meningococcal (meningitis)
1 dose at 24 years or younger
varicella (chicken pox) Footnote *
1 dose
travel vaccines Footnote *

Not everyone is the same. You may need more or fewer vaccines depending on your medical history and risks. Talk to your healthcare provider about the right vaccines for you.

Provinces and territories have differences in how vaccines are provided and which vaccines are paid for (publicly funded). There are important things to consider when talking to your healthcare provider about the vaccines you need. These include your:

  • medical history
  • job
  • lifestyle
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