Adult Vaccine Schedule for Parents and Grandparents

All parents and grandparents should get vaccinated to protect themselves—and the children in their family—from preventable diseases. Here's the recommended adult vaccine schedule for anyone that comes in contact with a newborn.

grandfather holding grandson
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Most newborns with illnesses like whooping cough and influenza catch it from someone inside the home. That's why it's important for those closest to a newborn—such as parents, grandparents, and siblings—to stay up-to-date on shots. "When adults get vaccinated, it curbs the spread of disease to infants and children who are either too young to be immunized or not yet fully protected," says Anita Chandra-Puri, M.D., a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics and a pediatrician at Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group in Chicago.

This strategy is called "cocooning," says Matthew Daley, M.D., a pediatrician for Kaiser Permanente in Colorado and a researcher who studies vaccine topics. "Cocooning is protecting the baby by immunizing the people around him, like the parents, grandparents, and other kids (but hopefully, they're already caught up with their vaccinations),” Dr. Daely says.

So what does an adult vaccine schedule look like? Check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations, where adults 19 and older are directed toward important vaccine info.

COVID-19 Vaccine

The COVID-19 vaccine protects against the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Why you need it:

While the COVID-19 vaccine does not 100% prevent people from getting COVID-19, the vaccine does greatly reduce the severity of the disease, the need for hospitalization, and death. For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine, visit the CDCD here.

Get the COVID-19 vaccine if:

Depending on which vaccine you choose, Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech, you will be directed toward a specific vaccine dose based on your age. See the CDC COVID-19 vaccine chart here for more details. You can receive the COVID-19 vaccine if:

  • You have already had COVID-19.
  • You had the vaccine but need a booster.
  • You will be in contact with newborns, the elderly, or those with compromised immune systems.
  • You are pregnant or nursing.

MMR Vaccine

The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps, and rubella.

Why you need it:

Even though measles has been largely eliminated from the U.S., pockets of unvaccinated populations still exist where the disease can spread. Measles is highly contagious and can spread quickly among a community that hasn't been vaccinated. In fact, the lack of vaccination contributes to measles outbreaks in America. Babies and pregnant parents have a higher risk of being endangered by measles because they can't be vaccinated. All three viruses—measles, mumps, and rubella (also called German measles)—can cause miscarriages or birth defects.

Get the MMR vaccine if:

  • You were born in 1957 or later and have never been immunized. (Those born before 1957 are considered immune, so they don't need the recommended MMR vaccine schedule for adults).
  • You're traveling overseas (booster shot).
  • You work in health care (booster shot).
  • You're a woman of childbearing age.
  • You're a college student, trade school student, or a student beyond high school.

Skip the MMR vaccine if:

  • You're pregnant (because the vaccine contains weakened, but live, virus strains).
  • You're trying to conceive. (Use birth control for a month after getting the vaccine.)
  • You were born before 1957 and were exposed to the viruses (a blood test can confirm immunity).
  • You're allergic to gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin.
  • Your immune system is severely compromised due to HIV/AIDS or cancer.
  • You had blood tests that showed you are immune to measles, mumps, and rubella.
  • You already had two doses of MMR or one dose of MMR plus a second dose of the measles vaccine.
  • You already had one dose of MMR and are not at high risk of measles or mumps exposure.

Influenza Vaccine

The influenza vaccine protects against the flu.

Why You Need It:

About 40,000 people die every year from the flu. Infants can get the flu vaccine starting at 6 months of age, but before that, they're particularly vulnerable to this deadly virus. Pregnant people are more likely to be hospitalized with flu-related complications than with the flu itself.

Get the Influenza Vaccine If:

  • Adults should get the flu vaccine every year—even if they're pregnant. Healthy adults, age 18 to 49 can get the nasal-spray vaccine.

Skip the Influenza Vaccine If:

  • You have severe egg allergies.
  • Pregnant people should not get the nasal-spray vaccine because it contains weakened, but live virus strains.
  • You've had Guillain-Barr Syndrome, a disorder that causes your immune system to attack your nervous system.

Varicella Vaccine

The varicella vaccine protects against chicken pox.

Why You Need It:

Children and adults can develop—and even die from—chicken pox-induced complications like pneumonia and infections of the brain, bone, skin, and blood. Before the vaccine was introduced to the U.S. in 1995, about 100 people died from chickenpox yearly, and 11,000 more were hospitalized. Even kids with mild cases miss about six days of school (which means missed work days).

What's worse is that once chicken pox symptoms resolve, the virus that causes it remains dormant in the system but can reactivate later in life as shingles, which is a painful rash that covers one half of the body or face and includes blistering, fevers, headaches, and upset stomach.

Get the Varicella Vaccine If:

  • You've never had chickenpox.
  • You've only had one vaccination dose (booster shot).

Skip the Varicella Vaccine If:

  • You're pregnant (because the vaccine contains weakened, but live, virus strains).
  • You're trying to conceive. (Use birth control for a month after getting the vaccine.)
  • You're allergic to gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin.
  • Your immune system is severely compromised due to HIV/AIDS or cancer.

Tdap or DTaP Vaccine

The Tdap or DTaP vaccine protects against tetanus and whooping cough.

Why You Need It:

Protection against tetanus (also known as lockjaw, a disease caused by a bacterial infection), diphtheria (a respiratory infection), and pertussis (whooping cough) fade over time. The bacteria that causes lockjaw makes a toxin, or poison, that causes severe muscle spasms. Newborns are especially vulnerable to these illnesses during the first six weeks because they're not old enough to be vaccinated. The Td booster dose is recommended every 10 years, but the Tdap is given only once.

Get the Tdap Vaccine If:

  • You're age 64 or younger and you weren't previously vaccinated (get Tdap)
  • You're age 65 or older and are in close contact with infants younger than 12 months (get Tdap)
  • You're age 65 or younger and are in close contact with infants younger than 12 months (get Td booster)
  • It's been 10 years since your last Tdap or Td vaccination (get Td booster)
  • You work in health care (get either Tdap or Td booster)

Skip the Tdap Vaccine If:

  • You're less than 20 weeks pregnant. Tdap or Td can be given later in pregnancy or after childbirth.
  • You have epilepsy, Guillain-Barr Syndrome, or another nervous system disorder.

Hepatitis B Vaccine

The hepatitis B vaccine protects against hepatitis B.

Why You Need It:

Many of the 1 million people infected with hepatitis B don't know they have it. Infected parents can pass the disease, which causes liver disease and cancer, to infants at birth. That's why it's important to understand the hepatitis B vaccine schedule for adults.

Get the Hepatitis B Vaccine If:

  • You're pregnant and haven't been vaccinated already.
  • You have more than one sexual partner.
  • You're age 60 or older and have diabetes.
  • You work in healthcare.
  • You live with someone who has hepatitis B.

Skip the Hepatitis B Vaccine If:

  • You have a life-threatening allergy to yeast.

Herpes Zoster Vaccine

The herpes zoster vaccine protects against shingles.

Why You Need It:

Your childhood chickenpox virus can reactivate as shingles during adulthood, resulting in nerve pain that lasts for months or even years. People infected with shingles can pass the chickenpox virus to unvaccinated children.

Get the Herpes Zoster Vaccine If:

  • You're age 60 or older.

Skip the Herpes Zoster Vaccine If:

  • You're allergic to gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin.
  • Your immune system is severely compromised due to HIV/AIDS or cancer.

Pneumococcal Polysaccharide or PPSV Vaccine

The PPSV vaccine protects against pneumonia.

Why You Need It:

More than 1 million Americans are hospitalized with pneumonia every year. Infants, young children, and older adults are highly vulnerable to the pneumococcus bacteria, which cause pneumonia, meningitis, and blood infections. Pregnant people have an increased risk of premature labor.

Get the PPSV Vaccine If:

  • You're age 65 or older.
  • You have serious health problems like kidney failure, lymphoma or leukemia, cancer, or HIV/AIDS.
  • You smoke.
  • You've had your spleen damaged or removed.

Skip the PPSV Vaccine If:

  • You're age 64 or younger and in good health. (But you should check out the pneumococcal vaccine schedule for adults when you reach age 65.)
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