Vaccines: when you may need them

7 real-life situations that may call for vaccines

If any of these situations sound familiar, it’s time to talk to your doctor

There’s no single immunization schedule that’s right for everyone. Which vaccines you need depends on a number of factors — from your health history to your future plans.

For example, here are seven situations to consider. They may mean you, or a family member, need vaccines. Rolling up your sleeve for timely and recommended shots can protect you — and others too — from dangerous diseases.1

1. You have no idea if you’re protected

Ask your doctor if you’re missing any shots. That includes booster doses. Over time, the protection you get from vaccines can fade. If you’re not fully vaccinated, you may become seriously ill with a preventable disease. You could also spread it to others — to an at-risk family member, for example.

Your doctor may suggest catch-up vaccines, as well. For example, some adults may still gain protection against chicken pox and the human papillomavirus (HPV).

2. You’re living with a health condition

If you have a chronic illness such as diabetes, asthma or heart disease, you may need certain vaccines — including an annual flu shot. That’s also true if you have a weak immune system from another cause.

3. You’re expecting — or you’d like to be soon

Every time you’re pregnant, you need to be vaccinated against whooping cough. It can be deadly for babies. A shot in your third trimester can protect you and your baby. Pregnant women should also get the flu vaccine.

Are you planning for pregnancy? Some shots should be given before you conceive. That includes the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine. Rubella can be especially harmful during pregnancy.

4. You’re a soon-to-be grandparent or spend time around babies

Anyone who will be around infants should be up to date on their immunizations, including the whooping cough vaccine. The Tdap vaccine protects against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough (pertussis).

5. You’re taking a trip out of the country

See what vaccines you may need well before your travel date. Some preventable diseases — like measles — are rare in the U.S., but they’re more common overseas. Some countries may also require vaccines that aren’t required here. Learn more — and see what’s needed for your trip.

6. You have a teen headed to college

First-year students who plan to live in dorms should be vaccinated against bacterial meningitis, which can be deadly. It often spreads where people live in close quarters.

7. You’re nearing retirement age

Ask your doctor about vaccines for conditions that are more common in older adults, such as shingles and pneumonia.

What to do next

See your doctor for a wellness checkup. Take this checklist of adult vaccines with you — and find out which ones you may need. Other factors — besides the ones shared here — may affect what’s advised for you.


  1. Check your benefit plan to see what services may be covered. Note that most plans don’t cover the shingles vaccine before age 60. But there are some exceptions.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention