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Reducing Your Health Risks With Vaccines

A doctor that is about to give a young child a shot.

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Vaccines are one of the best ways to reduce your risk of illness and the spread of disease. Serious research has gone into making vaccines that are safe, efficient and effective for all ages. In fact, vaccine recommendations have been standardized to guide health care providers and keep families on track with their immunizations.

Who Needs Vaccines?

Adults and children need vaccines to reduce health risks. The types needed may depend on your age, health history or where you work and travel. From birth, timely vaccination helps provide immunity before children are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases. As you age, your care provider can guide you to what booster shots or seasonal immunizations are right for you.

How Can Vaccines Help Me?

Vaccines can help you:

  • Be less likely to pass on infections to your close contacts
  • Not miss work or school because of sick time
  • Prevent serious complications and even death from certain infections
  • Reduce your risk of getting sick when traveling
  • Save money on medical costs from illness
  • Spend more time enjoying life
  • Stay healthy and active
  • Take care of your family
  • Worry less about your risk for infections

How Do Vaccines Work?

Vaccines tell your own immune system how to prevent certain kinds of diseases. A vaccine uses a tiny amount of substance that lets your body build up antibodies and other defenses to a virus or bacteria. This helps to prevent or lessen the severity of many types of diseases caused by infection.

A vaccine is most often done with an injection by a small needle into your arm. Some vaccines work in one shot. Others need to be done in two or more shots over a period of time. This lets your immune system build up the right amount of defenses.

Combination vaccines can help prevent more diseases with fewer shots. These vaccines have more than one type of prevention in a single dose.

What Vaccines Do I Need?

There are various vaccines that help protect adults from serious diseases. What you need may depend on your age and health history. These include vaccines to prevent shingles, HPV, meningitis and pneumonia. Other vaccines are important for everyone. These include vaccines for tetanus, the flu and COVID-19. You may need other vaccines if you’re planning to travel or if you work in certain settings. Your primary care provider will talk with you about your health history and tell you which ones you need to stay up to date.

Do I Need the Yearly Flu Vaccine?

Yes — all adults benefit from an annual flu vaccine. This vaccine reduces your risk of getting the flu and complications from the flu. It’s best to get it before the end of October each year.

Where Can I Get Vaccines?

There are many places you can get vaccines. In some cases, you may need to schedule in advance to make sure there’s a vaccine ready for you. You can often get immunized at places like:

  • Local vaccine clinics or hospitals
  • On-site at your workplace
  • Your local pharmacy
  • Your primary care provider’s office
  • Your senior living community or assisted living

It's Not Too Late

If you’re worried that you have missed some vaccines, it’s not too late. Your primary care provider can make sure you easily get up to date on the shots that are right for you.

It’s important to remember that even healthy people need vaccines. They’re one of the easiest ways to reduce the risk of serious illness throughout your life.


We have answers. The best person to talk to is your primary care provider. He or she can tell you why and how vaccines can help keep you healthy — and recommend which ones you need. For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine, visit our Coronavirus Vaccine Resource Hub.

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