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Vaccines adults need

Date last reviewed: 
Thursday, Dec 14, 2023

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Vaccines aren't just for kids. Keeping up to date with your immunizations as an adult is the best way to protect yourself from certain diseases. When you get immunized, you help protect others, too.  Read below to learn what vaccines you might need. 
 
Fact

Did you know?

Many vaccines, like influenza, COVID-19, and tetanus/diphtheria (Td) vaccines, are free for all adults in BC (paid for by the BC government). Others, like the shingles vaccine and travel vaccines, you need to buy. Some health plans cover the cost of these vaccines. Talk to your health care provider for more information.

VACCINES ALL ADULTS NEED

All adults should make sure they are up to date on these routine vaccines: 

COVID-19 vaccine
 
The COVID-19 vaccine is recommended and free for all adults. For COVID-19 vaccine recommendations, see our COVID-19 vaccine page
 
Influenza vaccine
 
All adults should get an influenza (flu) vaccine every year. This vaccine is free for all adults.
 
Tetanus and diphtheria vaccine
 
All adults should get a booster dose of the Td (tetanus and diphtheria) vaccine every 10 years. This vaccine is free. 
 
Pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine
 
All adults should get a booster dose of the pertussis vaccine (given as the Tdap vaccine) once in adulthood. Most adults will have to buy this vaccine. However, it is free for:
 
  • Pregnant people 
  • Adults who have not been fully immunized or whose immunization history is unknown

OTHER VACCINES YOU MIGHT NEED

Review the sections below to learn what other vaccines you may need based on: 
 
Some of these vaccines are free, and others you may need to buy. 
 
Information

Not immunized in childhood

If you weren't immunized in childhood, please see the vaccine schedule for adults not immunized in childhood

 

Age

Find out what vaccines you need based on your age. 

19 to 49 years
 
Every year:
 
Every 10 years:
 
At least once in adulthood:
 
You should also make sure you are up to date on these vaccines: 
 
Talk to your health care provider to find out if you have all the vaccines you need. 
 
 
For COVID-19 vaccine recommendations, see our COVID-19 vaccine page
 
50 to 64 years
 
Every year:
 
Every 10 years:
 
At least once in adulthood:
 
Once you turn 50:
 
  • Shingles vaccine – you need to buy this vaccine; some health plans cover the cost of this vaccine. 
You should also make sure you are up to date on these vaccines:
 
Talk to your health care provider to find out if you have all the vaccines you need. 
 
 
For COVID-19 vaccine recommendations, see our COVID-19 vaccine page
 
65 years and older
 
Every year:
 
Every 10 years:
 
At least once in adulthood:
 
Once you turn 50:
 
  • Shingles vaccine – you need to buy this vaccine; some health plans cover the cost of this vaccine.
At 65 years or older: 
 
You should also make sure you are up to date on these vaccines: 
 
  • Chickenpox vaccine  – free for adults who have not had the vaccine or disease. Most Canadian adults will have had the disease. 
     
For COVID-19 vaccine recommendations, see our COVID-19 vaccine page
 
 
Talk to your health care provider to find out if you have all the vaccines you need. 
 
 
 

Life events, job, and travel

Find out what vaccines you need based on life events, your job, or travel plans.

Pregnancy
 
Pregnant people should get the following vaccines:
 
These vaccines are free for pregnant people. Check with your health care provider to ensure you have received all recommended vaccines.
 
 
Job
 
Specific vaccines may be recommended for you based on your job, especially if you work (or are training to work) in health care, the military, a laboratory, in childcare, with animals, or if you handle food. 
 

Health care workers

 
Health care workers are at risk of exposure to communicable diseases while at work because of their contact with patients or infectious material from patients. 
 
Health care workers should make sure they are up to date on all routine vaccines. They should also get the following vaccines if they are not already up to date:
 
Check with your health care provider to ensure you have received all the recommended vaccines. 
 
*A health care worker includes people who provide health care to patients or work in institutions that provide patient care. 
 

Other workers

 
Employees in various workplaces may be exposed to vaccine-preventable diseases. It’s important that all workers are up to date on their routine vaccines, including their yearly influenza vaccine. 
 
If your job puts you at risk of getting or spreading diseases, you might need extra vaccines. This is especially important for people who work in the military, in the laboratory, with animals, or who handle food.
 
Talk to your health care provider and/or employer to see what vaccines are recommended for you and if they are free. Vaccines that aren’t free may be covered by your employer. 
 
International travelers
 
Before you travel to other countries, plan ahead to get all the vaccines you need. Consult your health care provider or travel clinic 6 to 8 weeks before you travel. This is important because some vaccines may take several weeks to become fully effective, and others may require more than 1 dose. You will need to buy most vaccines for travel. 
 
The vaccines you need are based on:
 
  • Where you are going.
  • The type of travel and length of your trip. 
  • What vaccines you’ve already received.

Here are some examples of vaccines that may be recommended or, in some cases, required for travel to certain countries:

For more information on travel vaccines see: Before you travel.
 
Adults new to Canada
 
If you've just moved to Canada, it's important to make sure you have received all the vaccines recommended for adults in BC. These vaccines might be different from those recommended in your home country. 
 
Take your immunization record to your local health unit, community health centre, health care provider, or pharmacy to be checked to see if you are up to date on routine vaccines. If you don’t have a vaccine record, you can still speak to a health care provider about what vaccines are recommended. If you are missing any recommended vaccines, you can receive these from your local health unit, community health centre, or pharmacy. Some doctors and nurse practitioners also give vaccines.  
 
Residents of Extended or Intermediate Care Facilities
 
People living in Extended or Intermediate Care Facilities should make sure all of their routine immunizations are up to date. In addition, people who live in these facilities should receive the following vaccines:
 
Check with your health care provider to ensure you have received all recommended vaccines.
 
 

Health conditions

Immunization is especially important for people with certain health conditions. Some health conditions can make it harder for you to fight off vaccine-preventable diseases like pneumococcal or influenza (flu). They can also make it more likely that you’ll have serious complications from the disease. 

Immunocompromising conditions
 
Vaccines are especially important for people with conditions that weaken the immune system or who take medications that suppress their immune system. Having a weakened immune system means it is more difficult to fight off infections or diseases in the body. In addition to vaccines recommended for all adults, other vaccines may be recommended and free for you depending on your condition, including:
 
Check with your health care provider to ensure you have received all recommended vaccines.
 
Other health conditions
 
People with conditions such as diabetes, heart, or lung disease are at higher risk for serious problems or complications from certain vaccine-preventable diseases. In addition to vaccines recommended for all adults, these other vaccines may be recommended and free for you depending on your health condition:
 
Check with your health care provider to ensure you have received all recommended vaccines.
 
 

Other factors

Other people may benefit from additional vaccines, including men who have sex with men, people who use illicit drugs, and people who have multiple sex partners. In many cases, these vaccines are available for free. 

Men who have sex with men
 
In addition to routine vaccines, the following vaccines are also recommended for men who have sex with men: 
 
People who have multiple sexual partners
 
In addition to routine vaccines, the following vaccines are recommended for people with multiple sex partners:
 
People who use illicit drugs

In addition to routine vaccines, the following vaccines are recommended for people who use illicit drugs:
 
People experiencing homelessness
 
In addition to routine vaccines, the following vaccine is recommended for people experiencing homelessness:
 
Check with your health care provider to ensure you have received all recommended vaccines.
 
 

Vaccines available for purchase

In addition to vaccines that are routinely recommended for all adults, there are other vaccines available that you can buy for extra protection. Some health plans may cover the cost of these vaccines; check with your provider. 

Vaccines for extra protection
 
Talk to your health care provider about additional vaccines you can buy for extra protection, including: 
 
You can buy these vaccines at pharmacies, travel clinics, and some doctors’ offices. Ask your health care provider if extra protection is important for you and your family.
 
*Some of these vaccines might be free depending on your age or other factors.
 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Where can adults get vaccinated?
 
Adults can get free vaccines (vaccines paid for by the BC Government) from their local health unit, community health centre, nursing station, or pharmacy. Some doctors and nurse practitioners also give vaccines. Vaccines that are not free can be purchased at most pharmacies and travel clinics. 
 
How much do vaccines cost?
 
Many vaccines are provided free to the public by the BC Government. The cost of vaccines you need to buy ranges from about $60 to $200 per dose (multiple doses may be required in a vaccine series).  There may be extra fees for consultation, dispensing, and injecting. Vaccine costs vary throughout the province for the various types of vaccines, depending on where you get them. Some health insurance plans cover the costs of vaccines; check with your provider.
 
Will my health plan cover the cost of the vaccines I have to buy?
 
An insurance company will have various plans, and your coverage will depend on the policy provided by an employer or other provider or that you may have paid for yourself. Here is some information to get you started: 
 
  • Neither MSP nor Pharmacare covers vaccines that the BC government doesn’t fund.
  • Vaccines may be covered by an extended benefits plan from a private insurance agency. You should obtain the DIN (Drug Identification Number) from a pharmacy, then contact your private insurance agency to find out about this aspect of medical coverage.
  • Government or private sector employees may have vaccine coverage in their benefits package. If this is your situation, check with your Human Resources Department (or equivalent in smaller organizations).
  • If you are attending a post-secondary institution, some institutions provide some vaccines as part of the student health plan. Check with Student Health Services on campus. If more than one dose is required, Student Health Services can schedule the vaccines to be given over different years of the plan to maximize the plan’s value.
Why aren’t all vaccines free for the public? 
 
In BC, the Ministry of Health makes decisions to fund vaccine programs based on recommendations from the Communicable Disease Policy Advisory Committee. This expert scientific committee looks at the following: 
 
  • Statements issued by Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization.
  • The published literature (studies about certain vaccines and diseases).
  • The product monograph (information about the vaccine from the manufacturer).
  • Local epidemiology (how often the disease occurs in different groups of people in the province).
  • Available health economic analyses (an analysis of the costs and benefits of the vaccine).
Recommendations for new vaccine programs are then prioritized with other public health initiatives. As a result, not all vaccines approved for use in Canada are funded by the provincial government. People may choose to buy vaccines for extra protection.