Yes, You're an Adult. And YES, You Need Vaccination Booster Shots

Yes, You're an Adult. And YES, You Need Vaccination Booster Shots

Vaccinate your kids! This is the 2019 battle cry of science-literate, pro-health, anti-preventable disease people. Vaccinating your kids is vital – but it isn’t enough. Did you know that adults need regular boosters too?

Under-vaccination is a thing along with being unvaccinated, and especially when combined with the lowered primary vaccination rate as of late, it leaves the population open to the spread of disease. Simply put, you need to remember yourself too when you think about vaccines.

The good news is, it’s very easy to make sure you get and stay up to date. Let me break down what you need to know by vaccine.

Flu Shot

Everyone over six months old should get this annually. (It is as safe and as important as other vaccines.)


Tetanus, pertussis, and diphtheria. After your childhood vaccinations, you should get a tetanus and diphtheria booster every ten years. The pertussis vaccine is separate after childhood, and is recommended for pregnant people with each pregnancy to protect their newborns. It isn’t a bad idea to talk to your doctor about a pertussis booster even if you aren’t pregnant, especially if you are around infants or other vulnerable people.


Measles, mumps, rubella. If you are received your childhood vaccines, you may or may not need an MMR booster. The best way to know is to ask your doctor to check your titers via a blood test. You may need a second MMR shot if you are in an at risk group, such as spending time in close settings with a lot of people (living in a dorm, attending or teaching at a secondary school, etc.), if you are traveling, and in some other cases. Check in with your doctor and decide together whether or not an MMR booster is necessary for you.


If you have not had a chickenpox infection, you need two chickenpox shots. If you have only had one shot, you need a booster. If you aren’t sure, your doctor can check your immunity. If you have a compromised immune system due to illness or medication, your immunity to chickenpox may be compromised and you should see your doctor.


This vaccine is generally recommended for people fifty and older. You can develop shingles younger than age fifty (I know, because I did) so if you are concerned, speak to your doctor about the possibility of an earlier booster – but generally, age fifty and up will do it.


This vaccine is given to children under two, but adults sixty-five and older should also get one. If you smoke, have a cochlear implant, have a weakened immune system, or have certain chronic health conditions (such as chronic heart, liver, kidney, or lung [including chronic obstructive lung disease, emphysema, and asthma] disease; diabetes; or alcoholism) you may need a booster before sixty-five.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

Two doses are needed. If you didn’t receive two doses in adolescence, cis men with healthy immune systems can receive the vaccine until they are twenty-two years old. Cis women, transgender individuals, men who have sex with other men, and men with weakened immune systems can get the vaccine until they are twenty-seven years old.

Hepatitis B

If you received the series of vaccines as a child or teen, you shouldn’t need a booster (check with your doctor if you are unsure.) If you didn’t receive the vaccinations, it’s important to get them if you are at risk of bodily fluid exchange (anything from being a healthcare worker, to being sexually active, to being incarcerated) or if you have health conditions such as liver damage. Because the category for those at risk is so broad, and because it isn’t harmful to get the vaccine again if you have already received it, if you aren’t sure you are vaccinated, talk to your doctor about getting the shots.

Hepatitis A

If you didn’t receive the vaccines at a year old, you should get them as an adult if you are part of one of the at risk groups listed here you should definitely talk to your doctor.


This is has very specific recommendations. Generally speaking, eleven and twelve year olds should receive the vaccines with a booster at sixteen – but there are other factors that might warrant a vaccine sooner or later than that. For specific info, check here:

Travel Vaccines

If you are traveling outside of Canada, talk to your doctor about any vaccines you may need well in advance of your trip (if possible) as some need to be taken ahead of time to be effective.

If after reading this you think you need to update your vaccines, you aren’t sure, or you just have questions, book an appointment with your doctor to go over the details. Thank-you for doing your part to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community!





Heather M. Jones is a mom of 2 from Toronto. When not writing, she can be found reading, worrying, and spending way too much time on Facebook.