What Vaccines Do I Need if I'm Over 50?

Published: January 13, 2023
Barbara Young
By Barbara Young, PharmD

Adults over 50 years of age need to receive certain vaccines to help prevent serious illnesses. Our immune systems weaken with age, so we need to be vaccinated to decrease the risk of these diseases.

Which vaccines are recommended for adults over 50?

The shingles vaccine is recommended for adults 50 years of age and older. Vaccines to prevent pneumonia and other serious illnesses are recommended for adults over 65 years of age and for adults 19-64 years of age if they have certain medical conditions.

What should I know about shingles?

Shingles is a painful rash that usually occurs on one side of the face or body. A few days before the rash appears, you may notice pain, itching, or tingling in that area. Usually, the rash looks like a stripe on the side of the body but can also be on the face and affect the eye. You may also have a fever, headache, chills, and an upset stomach. The rash may last for 7 to 10 days, but it may take 2-4 weeks to fully recover.

Almost 1 in 3 people in the United States will develop shingles in their lifetime. Your risk of shingles increases as you grow older.

When should I get the shingles vaccine (Shingrix)?

If you are 50 years or older, you can get the first dose of the shot. A second dose is needed 2 to 6 months later.

Does the shingles vaccine (Shingrix) have side effects?

Side effects may include a sore arm with redness and swelling. You may also feel tired and have a headache, muscle pain, fever, shivering, or upset stomach or pain. These side effects last for 2 or 3 days and may affect your daily activities. If you have any of these reactions, you can take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to lessen the effects.

What should I know about Pneumococcal disease?

Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria can cause pneumonia or an infection in the blood or the lining of the brain or spinal cord in adults. These conditions can be very serious and cause hospitalization or death.

What types of vaccines are available, and when should I get the pneumococcal vaccine?

There are two types of pneumococcal vaccines available in the U.S. to help prevent disease in adults 65 years and older (or if you are 19 through 64 years and have certain chronic medical conditions).

Pneumococcal conjugate vaccines: PCV13 (Prevnar 13), PCV15 (Vaxneuvance), and PCV20 (Prevnar20)

Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine: PPSV23 (Pneumovax)

Each of these vaccines contains different types of pneumococcal bacteria, so different combinations of vaccines may be necessary for older adults to get the optimal protection.

  • If you have not received any pneumococcal vaccines, you can get a PCV15 shot and then a dose of PPSV23 one year later.
  • If you have not received any pneumococcal vaccines, you can get a PCV20 shot, and then no further pneumococcal injections are necessary.
  • If you previously received PCV13, then you should get a dose of PCV23 one year later.
  • If you previously received PCV23, then you should get a dose of PCV15 or PCV20 one year later

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about your pneumococcal vaccine needs if you are under 65 and have any ongoing medical conditions.

What other vaccines do I need as an older adult?

Adults over 50 also need to remember to have a yearly flu shot, and make sure they are up to date with their tetanus booster shots and COVID-19 vaccinations.


There are many vaccines available for adults over 50 years to help decrease the risk of serious illness. Talk to your pharmacist or another healthcare provider to find out which vaccines are right for you.

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