When you hear about vaccines, you often think of children. Adults need vaccines, too! It’s important for adults to keep vaccines up to date because:
- Protection from vaccines you’ve gotten in the past can wear off over time.
- You’re at risk for different diseases as you get older.
- Your job, travel habits, lifestyle, or health conditions may put you at risk for disease.
- Vaccines can prevent life-threatening illnesses as well as short-term illnesses.
- Vaccines can stop you from spreading diseases to your family and friends.
- New vaccines are developed
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends all adults get:
- Td or Tdap vaccine to prevent tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough.
- Influenza vaccine to prevent seasonal influenza (flu).
You should get the flu vaccine every year. Talk with your doctor to learn more. A high-dose flu vaccine is available for those 65 years and older.
Aspects of your life may put you at risk for diseases. You can prevent many of these diseases by getting vaccines.
Read more below about adult vaccines. We answer FAQs (frequently asked questions) about finding your vaccine record, where to get vaccines, cost, and more. Talk with your doctor about what vaccines are right for you.
Just for college students
College students have a higher risk for meningococcal disease than people the same age not attending college.
You could be at higher risk of meningococcal disease if you:
- Live close together, like in a dormitory or residence hall.
- Share food and drinks.
- Drink too much alcohol.
- Smoke or exposed to smoke.
People spread meningococcal bacteria by sharing respiratory droplets, spit, or saliva. For example, this can be through coughing, kissing, or sneezing.
2003 Wisconsin, Act 61 requires college students be informed about hepatitis B and meningococcal disease. Talk with your doctor, college health clinic, or local health department. They can tell you more about the meningococcal vaccine and if it’s available to you.
Just for adults
What vaccines are right for me?
All adults are recommended to get a Td or Tdap vaccine (to prevent tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough) and yearly flu vaccine (to prevent seasonal influenza).
You may need other vaccines based on your age, travel plans, or other aspects of your life. You can call your current or previous doctors and ask them which vaccines you may need. You can look up your record on the Wisconsin Immunization Registry for a list of all the vaccines you have received in Wisconsin and a list of recommended vaccines that you should get.
The CDC offers a Vaccine Assessment Tool. This tool helps you find out what other vaccines the CDC recommends. Print or download your results and take them to your next medical visit.
Where can I get vaccinated?
Vaccines are offered in many pharmacies, doctor’s offices, and health departments. Check in advance if they have the vaccines you need. If you have health insurance, call your doctor’s office, pharmacy, or health insurance company. They can tell you where to get your vaccines.
Visit vaccines.gov or call 211 to find flu and COVID-19 vaccine locations near you.
How much do vaccines cost?
The cost depends on where you get your vaccine and whether you have health insurance.
If you have health insurance, call your insurance provider to ask which vaccines are covered under your plan. Ask where you can get your vaccines and whether you’ll need to pay. Most private health insurance plans cover vaccines at no extra cost to you.
The CDC webpage How to Pay for Vaccines explains which vaccines usually are covered by:
- Private health insurance.
- Military insurance (TRICARE).
If you don’t have health insurance, visit HealthCare.gov to learn more about affordable health coverage options.
Some locations offer vaccines at low or no cost. Lower cost vaccines may be available at a Federally Qualified Health Center, Rural Health Clinic or your local health department. Check ahead of time which vaccines are available and how much they’ll cost. If you don’t have health insurance or if cost is a concern, you might be eligible for free vaccines through the Vaccines For Adults program.
COVID-19 vaccines are free for everyone.
What is the Vaccines For Adults program?
The Vaccines For Adults program helps adults 19 and older get free vaccines if you’re uninsured or underinsured. Most local and tribal health departments are Vaccines for Adults providers. Contact your local health department for more information.
Learn more about the Vaccines for Adults Program, P-03452. (PDF)
Are vaccines safe?
Yes. Vaccines are some of the safest medical products available. Vaccines also keep us safe and are our best defense against diseases. They work with our body’s natural defenses (our immune systems) to help us safely develop protection against disease, without the risks that come with being infected.
Vaccines, like medicine, can have some side effects. The most common side effects are mild soreness, tiredness, redness, or swelling where you got the vaccine. Sometimes the vaccine will cause a mild fever. These side effects are caused as our immune systems learn how to fight the disease. Learn more about the immune system and vaccines.
Vaccines are one of the most thoroughly tested medical products available in the U.S. Before a new vaccine is ever given to people, extensive lab testing is done. The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) take many steps to make sure vaccines are safe both before and after the public begins using the vaccine. To understand how vaccines are developed, read the Journey of Your Child’s Vaccine. Adult vaccines follow the same process.
The CDC and the FDA monitor approved vaccines in several ways:
- Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment
- Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System
- Vaccine Safety Datalink
I don't like needles. Do I have other options?
You can get certain vaccines without needles. A few vaccines are available in a nasal spray. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about your options.
If a shot is required, try these ways to help calm you:
- Take deep breaths.
- Eat sugar (a piece of hard candy, for example).
- Use a topical anesthetic to numb the injection site.
The CDC offers other ideas to Make Shots Less Stressful.