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There Are Many Things We Want to Pass on to Our Loved Ones—Illness Is Not One of Them

Most of us want to pass on certain things like family traditions, a grandmother’s quilt or dad’s love of books—but no one wants to pass on a serious illness. If you're looking after elderly loved ones, help them take charge of their health by asking about vaccines at their next doctor’s visit.

Vaccinating children is commonplace in the United States. But many adults don’t know which vaccines they need, and even fewer are fully vaccinated. Every year, thousands of adults in the U.S. become needlessly ill from infectious diseases. Many adults are hospitalized and some even die from diseases that could be prevented by vaccines.

Not only can vaccine-preventable diseases make a person very sick, but if the person gets sick, he or she may risk spreading certain diseases to others. That’s a risk most of us would rather avoid. Babies, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems (like those undergoing cancer treatment) are especially vulnerable to infectious diseases. They are also more likely to have severe illness and complications if they do get sick. You can help loved ones (and yourself) stay healthy by getting recommended vaccines.

The good news is that getting vaccinated is easier than you think. Adults can get vaccinated at doctors’ offices, pharmacies, workplaces, health clinics and health departments. Visit to help find a vaccine provider near you. Most health insurance plans cover the cost of recommended vaccines—a call to your insurance provider can give you the details. What vaccines do you need? All adults should get the following:

  • Annual flu vaccine to protect against seasonal flu

  • Td/Tdap to protect against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough)

Some additional vaccines older adults may need include:

  • Hepatitis A

  • Hepatitis B

  • Meningococcal

  • Pneumococcal

  • Shingles

Still not sure what vaccines an older relative might need? The CDC offers a short quiz at to help find out which vaccines might be appropriate. Take the results of the quiz to your elderly loved one's provider to discuss which vaccines are right for him or her.

All adults should get an annual flu vaccine to protect against seasonal flu and a Td vaccine every 10 years to protect against tetanus and diphtheria. Your relative may also need other vaccines based on age, health conditions, occupation and other factors.

For more information about adult vaccines:

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