Featured Experts
Aaron Eli Glatt
Aaron Eli Glatt M.D., FACP, FIDSA, FSHEA View bio
Trisha Gum
Trisha Gum Attorney View bio

This guide was written by

MoneyGeek Staff

Vaccinations are a fast and easy way to prevent the spread of dangerous illnesses in everyone from infants to seniors. Many people, however, may not be aware of when or how to get recommended vaccines. Find helpful information on who needs to get vaccinated and when, as well as resources to help you determine where to get vaccinated and how much it could cost. Learn more about what you can do to protect yourself, your children, and your surrounding community.

Immunization Schedules

In order for vaccines to be effective, it’s important that patients get them at the right times. Vaccines can be administered at private hospitals, community healthcare clinics, pharmacies, and colleges and universities. Vaccines.gov, which is managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Humans Services, offers a vaccine finder to help adults find the nearest health center.

Below are details on recommended vaccinations for certain age groups, according to the CDC.

Vaccine Required Doses When Is a Booster Needed and When?
Diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis 5 2 months old, 4 months old, 6 months old, 15-19 months old, 4-6 years old No
Haemophilus influenzae type b 4 2 months old, 4 months old, 6 months old, 12 months old, 15 months old No
Hepatitis A 2 First dose at 12-23 months old; second dose 6 to 18 months later No
Hepatitis B 3 Birth, 1-2 months old, 6-19 months old No
Human papillomavirus 3 First dose at 11-12 years old; second dose 1-2 months later; final dose 16 weeks after second dose No
Inactivated poliovirus 4 2 months old, 4 months old, 6-19 months old, 4-6 years old No
Influenza Annually First dose between 6-15 months old, annually after the first dose No
Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) 2 12-15 months old, 4-6 years old No
Meningococcal 1 11-12 years old Booster dose at 16 years old
Pneumococcal conjugate 4 2 months old, 4 months old, 6 months old, 12-15 months old No
Rotavirus 3 2 months old, 4 months old, 6 months old No
Tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis 1 11-12 years old Booster every 10 years
Varicella (VAR) 2 12-15 months old, 4-6 years old No

Source: CDC

Vaccine Required Doses When Is a Booster Needed and When?
Human papillomavirus (HPV) (Female) 3 Recommended for young women under age 27 who did not start or finish the HPV vaccine series at age 11 or 12. No
Human papillomavirus (HPV) (Male) 3 Recommended for young men under age 22 who did not start or finish the HPV vaccine series at age 11 or 12. No
Influenza 1 dose annually 19-24 years old No
Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenACWY) 1, if not received during the preteen or teenage years 19-23 years old; before living in a college dorm No
Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Tdap) 1, if it wasn’t received during the preteen or teenage years 19-24 years old No

Source: Vaccines.gov

College Students and Vaccinations

From the dorm to the classroom and beyond, colleges are crowded places with lots of human interaction, making them breeding grounds for germs and sickness. In order to protect the health of everyone, many schools require students to receive certain vaccines before stepping foot on campus as a freshman or transfer student—whether they plan to live on campus or not.

One common vaccine that many schools require is the meningococcal conjugate vaccine, which combats meningitis. Even if it is not mandated by a specific school, the CDC recommends that college students receive this vaccination because of outbreaks that have occurred on college campuses in recent years. According to the CDC, students planning to live in residence halls should receive the full vaccine before moving on campus if they never had it before. If they received it before they turned 16 years old, students should get a booster to ensure they have the vaccination’s full protection.

Other required vaccines may differ depending on the school, as well as applicable state laws, but common ones include those that prevent measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, polio, chickenpox, influenza, and diphtheria. In some cases, students may have access to some vaccinations, such as the flu shot, through their school’s health center.

Vaccine Required Doses When Is a Booster Needed and When?
Haemophilus influenzae type b 1 or 3 19-64 years old No
Hepatitis A 2 or 3 19-64 years old Booster after 12 months
Hepatitis B 3 19-64 years old Booster after 12 months
Human papillomavirus (HPV) (Female) 3 19-27 years old No
Human papillomavirus (HPV) (Male) 3 19-27 years old No
Influenza 1 dose annually 19-64 years old No
Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) 1 or 2 19-50 years old No
Meningococcal 4-valent 1 or more 60-64 years old No
Meningococcal B 2 or 3 60-64 years old No
Pneumococcal 13-valent conjugate 1 60-64 years old No
Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis 1 19-64 years old Booster every 10 years
Varicella 2 19-64 years old No
Zoster 1 60-64 years old No

Source: CDC

Vaccine Required Doses When Is a Booster Needed and When?
Diphtheria 1 Every 10 years No
Influenza 1 Every year No
Pneumococcal disease 1 depending on health condition 65+ years old No
Shingles 1 65+ years old No

Source: Vaccines.gov

For many military members, the job takes them to locations that may expose them to dangerous illnesses. In order to keep individual troops and entire companies healthy, each branch of the military requires that its personnel receive certain vaccines. This is nothing new: In fact, the Military Vaccine Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense reports that troops received smallpox vaccinations back in 1777.

Smallpox is still on the list of vaccines that servicemembers are required to receive, along with a host of others. The table below provides more information on the different vaccines mandated by the military.

Vaccine Required Doses When Is a Booster Needed and When?
Adenovirus, Types 4 and 7 1 for each type Basic training No
Anthrax 1 When deployed to an area with an in-theater biological threat No
Cholera 1 When required to enter a host country No
Hepatitis A 1 Before deploying or traveling to high-risk locations No
Hepatitis B 1 When working in a high-risk occupation No
Influenza 1 dose annually Basic training No
JE Vaccine (Japanese B Encephalitis)   Before deploying or traveling to high-risk locations No
Measles 1 Basic training; when working in a high-risk occupation No
Meningococcal 1 Basic training; before deploying or traveling to high-risk locations No
Mumps 1 Basic training; when working in a high-risk occupation No
Plague 1 When working in a high-risk occupation No
Polio 1 Basic training No
Rabies 1 When working in a high-risk occupation No
Rubella 1 Basic training No
Smallpox 1 When deployed to an area with an in-theater biological threat No
Tetanus-diphtheria 1 Basic training Administered as needed
Typhoid 1 Before deploying or traveling to high-risk locations No
Varicella 1 When working in a high-risk occupation No
Yellow Fever 1 Basic training (for Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard); before deploying or traveling to high-risk locations Administered as needed (Navy and Marine Corps)

Source: Defense Health Agency

Servicemembers can receive their vaccinations for free through TRICARE, a healthcare program that serves the medical needs of military personnel and their families.

Although all servicemembers are expected to receive the required vaccinations, there are some cases where exemptions are possible. For example, temporary or permanent medical exemptions can be obtained by those who have conditions that would make receiving vaccinations dangerous, such as pregnancy, an acute illness, or illnesses that suppress the immune system (such as HIV).

Exemptions are also available to those who object to vaccinations for religious reasons. To receive this type of exemption, the military member’s command must conduct an investigation that includes input from chaplains and medical experts.

Paying for Vaccines

The full cost of vaccinations can be pricey. However, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) allows people to get preventive healthcare services, such as vaccinations, at no cost. This eliminates co-pays and deductibles for these services and means that families can get certain vaccinations—such as those for influenza, measles, hepatitis A and hepatitis B—at no cost if they have an ACA Health Insurance Marketplace plan.

Those who do not have health insurance, or have policies that don’t cover vaccinations, may still be able to get them at no cost through the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program. VFC is run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and provides physicians with vaccinations to distribute to patients who are underinsured or who are eligible for Medicaid. Parents may be charged an administrative fee for their children’s vaccinations through VFC, but if they are unable to pay it, they will not be turned away.

Anyone 65 and older can receive pneumonia, influenza, and hepatitis B vaccinations through Medicare. In addition, Medicare covers those who need vaccinations because they’ve been exposed to conditions like tetanus or rabies.

For general information, the CDC publishes a price list for vaccines obtained in the private sector. These prices are reported to the CDC by vaccine manufacturers every year. Below are the most recent costs for common vaccines.

  • Chicken pox series (Varicella)

    $107.67 per dose

  • Flu (Influenza) (pediatric, 6-35 months)

    $23.17 per dose

  • Flu (Influenza) (child or adult)

    $16.62 per dose

  • Hepatitis A series (child)

    $30.37 per dose

  • Hepatitis A series (adult)

    $66.91 per dose

  • Hepatitis B series (child)

    $22.40 per dose

  • Hepatitis B series (adult)

    $92.50 per dose

  • Human Papillomavirus series (HPV)

    $177.70 per dose

  • Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)

    $62.79 per dose

  • Meningitis (Meningococcal)

    $112.93 per dose

  • Pneumonia (Pneumococcal) – Pneumovax

    $78.90 per dose

  • Pneumonia (Pneumococcal) – Prevnar 13

    $159.58 per dose

  • Shingles (Herpes Zoster)

    $250.00 per dose

  • Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis

    $43.42 per dose

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Traveling Safely

Vaccinations are an essential part of safety for all travelers. In fact, in order to enter some countries in South America and Africa, you’ll need to show proof of certain vaccinations. Also, the CDC recommends that all international travelers be up to date on the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine, no matter what a country requires.

When planning international travel, you should consider the following:

Find out what vaccines are required

When planning any international trip, it’s important
to do your research. Consult a doctor to find
out what vaccines are necessary – and
recommended – to stay safe and healthy in your
destination country. You can also visit the CDC
for current details on vaccines and travel, including
vaccines for children, pregnant women, and those who have chronic illnesses.

Plan ahead

It takes four to six weeks for vaccines to build up immunity in the body, so it’s important to get them far enough in advance to ensure your safety. You may also be required to present documentation proving you’ve received the required vaccines, so be sure to factor in some time to collect updated medical records.

Be travel-smart

Even after getting the proper vaccines, it’s still
important to do certain things to stay healthy
when traveling. For example, the CDC
recommends avoiding tap water, ice cubes, and
eating raw foods in foreign countries. You should
also wash your hands frequently and avoid touching animals—particularly dogs, monkeys, and birds. Bugs are also something you should pay close attention to, because they can spread certain diseases. In order to avoid bug bites, use insect repellent and avoid sleeping in rooms that don’t have air conditioning or screens on the windows.

The Cost of Travel Vaccines

Travel vaccines can be expensive and are not covered by health insurance plans, so when budgeting for any international trip, be sure to plan for the cost of vaccinations. Costs can vary greatly, depending the type of provider you go to. For example, some travel clinics require a consultation, at a one-time cost, before administering any travel vaccines. For instance, the AITC Immunization & Travel Clinic, which is part of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, charges a $50 fee for people planning to travel internationally. This includes a medical review and recommendations for vaccines needed for the trip. You can find a list of vaccine prices on the clinic’s website to get an idea what to expect, but keep in mind these prices are likely to be different elsewhere. For more information about prices and fees, contact your local travel clinic or pharmacy for specific details.

Experts’ Takes on the Vaccine Debate

The debate over vaccinations took center stage in 1998 when British gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield published a paper indicating that the widely-used measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine could cause autism. Despite subsequent research showing no association between the MMR vaccine and autism, as well as Wakefield’s research being discredited and retracted from the medical journal Lancet, many people still support the anti-vaccine movement. But what do experts have to say about the topic?

What are the common arguments against vaccinations?

Non-vaccinators usually argue that vaccines cause autism. This is simply and absolutely incorrect. Many of the other reasons given against vaccinating are likewise unscientific, such as impingement upon freedom and personal choice, that vaccines cause other diseases, vaccines are unnatural, and vaccines go against someone’s religion. Some of the other common myths about vaccination include conspiracy theories involving governments, pharmaceutical companies, and physicians. All of these reasons are not based upon scientific facts. They are sometimes emotional arguments from people who have, unfortunately, had children with illnesses they think are associated with vaccines.

Why should people get vaccinated?

The most important reason for vaccination is to prevent serious and potentially fatal illnesses. Vaccination is the single reason why the biggest scourge of infections – smallpox, which killed 300 million people in the 1900s alone – is no longer a threat. Nobody has died from smallpox in almost 50 years, solely due to vaccination. The same is almost true of polio, a horrific childhood illness that has been eradicated from almost the entire world, except for a few small pockets, due to vaccination. The same could be true for many other very common illnesses like measles, mumps, diphtheria, and chickenpox.

What common safety concerns should people know about when it comes to vaccinations?

As with every treatment or preventative therapy, there are some valid safety concerns regarding vaccinations. All vaccinations are not the same, and certainly not all vaccines should be given to every single person. The best vaccines are those with the best safety profile and that prevent the most serious of illnesses, e.g., serious childhood xanthems (viral infections). All vaccines have potential side effects that can be minimized by carefully reviewing a person’s medical history and by only administering vaccines to the appropriate populations. There are also some rare idiosyncratic reactions that can occur, as with any therapy, but just as with taking medication, the physician must weigh the risks and benefits. With most vaccines, especially those dealing with potential serious childhood illnesses, the overwhelming evidence supports vaccination.

Why are some parents reluctant to get their children vaccinated?

There has been so much misinformation about vaccines online and in the press that parents are confused. This misinformation makes it natural to be fearful the first time you vaccinate your newborn baby. Although it’s a normal fear for parents to have, it does not mean you shouldn’t vaccinate your kids. If parents have questions, they should talk to their pediatrician to get accurate information about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.

What are the most important things that parents should know about vaccinations?

The most important thing that parents should know about vaccines is that vaccines are safe and effective. If a parent is on the fence about vaccinating their children, I tell them to trust science. Parents should vaccinate their children according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s schedule to help protect them from serious diseases. Vaccinating your kids and family also protects the community through herd immunity (when a portion of a population becomes less susceptible to a disease or illness because a large portion of the community has been vaccinated).

Why did you decide to create Parents for Vaccinations?

Parents for Vaccinations was created fall 2015 in response to my concern about the growing number of parents refusing to vaccinate their kids or choosing to delay vaccinations. Herd immunity was compromised and the choices these parents were making were putting the children – and others – in my community at risk. I wanted a way to convey my support for vaccinations in a positive manner. Parents for Vaccinations believes that vaccinations protect our kids and make our families, our neighborhood, and our hometown a little bit safer.

The Flu Vaccine

According to the CDC, the flu kills anywhere from 3,000 to 49,000 people annually. Still, some people may not understand why getting the flu vaccine is necessary every year. The following are some common questions related to the flu and its vaccine.

How does the
flu vaccine work?

The vaccine prevents the flu by creating antibodies in the body within two weeks after receiving the shot. These antibodies protect people from developing the flu if they are exposed to it.

What are the different kinds of flu vaccinations?

Flu vaccines are given through shots or nasal sprays. Different vaccines protect against either three or four specific strains of flu.

When should I get a flu vaccination?

Flu vaccines are administered annually, usually starting in October and continuing through as late as January. Although instances of the flu peak in January, people can contract the illness at any time during the season. As a result, it’s recommended that you get the flu shot as early as possible.

Do I need to get a flu vaccine every year?

Yes. The flu vaccine wears off over time, so getting a shot every year helps to ensure that the body is protected. In addition, the flu virus regularly mutates, so the vaccine may be updated from one year
to the next.

Who should be
vaccinated?

Everyone over 6 months old should get vaccinated. However, some patients are more at risk of contracting the flu than others, such as children under the age of 5, seniors over 65, and people who already have certain health conditions.

Who should not receive a flu vaccine?

Children under 6 months old and people who are allergic to the ingredients in the flu shot should not receive it. If you’re unsure, talk to your doctor.

Where are flu vaccines available?

Patients can receive a flu vaccination at several locations, including doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, health departments, and college health centers. Some employers also provide flu shots.

How much flu
vaccine is available?

Each year, supply of the flu vaccine depends on how much drug companies make. For example, in the 2015 to 2016 flu season, between 171 to 179 million doses were available, according to the CDC. The agency provides information about the seasonal supply on its website every year.

Are there any side effects?

Some people may have side effects such as soreness around the shot area, headaches, runny nose, sore throat, fever, and coughing. Most side effects are mild and cease within a couple of days.

Will the flu vaccine give me the flu?

Since the vaccine does not contain an infectious version of the virus, it cannot cause patients to develop the flu, although some may experience flu-like symptoms.

How Vaccines Work

Vaccines work by helping the body develop immunity to a certain infection. This is possible because the vaccine imitates the actual illness, causing the immune system to produce antibodies that can fight the real condition. When you receive a vaccine, you may develop symptoms that are associated with an infection, such as a fever, but this does not mean that you have contracted the illness itself.

Three words that you may have heard used interchangeably include vaccine, vaccination, and immunization, but they are different. A vaccine is a product that creates immunity from a disease through aerosol, injection, or oral administration, while a vaccination describes the process of receiving a vaccine and producing immunity through the use of a killed or weakened version of an illness. Immunization refers to the entire process of receiving protection from an illness.

There are several types of vaccines that patients receive:

Live, attenuated vaccines

These are produced from a weakened version of a live bacteria or virus. They are close enough to an actual infection that they create a resistance in the body. Some examples of this kind of vaccine are measles, influenza, and mumps vaccines.

Inactivated vaccines

This type of vaccine is made from live microbes that have been inactivated through heat, chemicals, or radiation. Inactivated vaccines require more doses because they do not contain a live virus. These vaccines treat conditions like hepatitis A and polio.

Toxoid vaccines

Toxoid vaccines are made from inactivated bacterial toxins. They teach the body to fight the natural version of a toxin.

Conjugate vaccines

This type of vaccine contains different elements of bacteria, as well as a carrier protein to protect the body from developing an infection. This builds a stronger resistance to an illness. Examples of conjugate vaccines include human papillomavirus and hepatitis B vaccines.

DNA vaccines

These vaccines are still in the experimental phase. They are made from the generic material of a microbe. An example of this is the West Nile virus vaccine.

Recombinant vector vaccines

This type of vaccine is also experimental and aims to stimulate the immune system through the use of microbial DNA and live viruses. Researchers are working on recombinant vector vaccines for HIV, rabies, and measles.

Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

  • Anthrax
  • Cervical cancer (attributable to human papillomavirus)
  • Diphtheria
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Influenza
  • Japanese encephalitis
  • Measles
  • Meningococcal disease (meningitis)
  • Mumps
  • Pertussis (whooping cough)
  • Pneumococcal disease
  • Polio
  • Rabies
  • Rotavirus
  • Rubella
  • Shingles
  • Smallpox
  • Tetanus
  • Typhoid
  • Tuberculosis
  • Varicella (chickenpox)
  • Yellow fever

Immunization Resources

For Parents

10 Things You Need to Know About Childhood Immunizations

The CDC discusses ten vaccination topics useful to parents, including which vaccinations are necessary, how many doses are administered, and how to keep track of the vaccines that children have received.

Parents for Vaccinations

This organization helps to raise awareness about vaccinations among parents.

Vaccines for Children – A Guide for Parents and Caregivers

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration provides detailed information on the benefits and risks associated with vaccines, as well as how vaccinations are administered.

Vaccines: The Reality Behind the Debate

Parents magazine discusses the different beliefs held by people on both sides of the vaccination debate.

Voices For Vaccines

Led by parents, this group promotes the importance of giving children vaccinations.

For Young Adults

College & Young Adults (age 19-24) – Vaccines.gov

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services explains the common types of vaccinations that young adults should receive.

Meningococcal Prevention Mandates for Colleges and Universities

Provides information on which states require college students to receive meningitis vaccinations.

The Department of Defense Immunization Information and Training Portal

This site provides vaccination information from the Military Vaccine Agency for prospective servicemembers.

For Adults and Seniors

Adult Immunization Schedule

This site includes information from the CDC on which vaccinations adults should receive and when they should receive them.

Are you 65 or older? Get two vaccinations against pneumonia

This page includes advice for seniors from Harvard University.

Senior Immunizations

John Muir Health describes vaccinations for seniors.

For Travelers

Country Information – U.S. Department of State

The Bureau of Consular Affairs offers information on every country in the world, including health issues for travelers to consider.

International Travel and Health

The World Health Organization gives information about vaccinations, travel safety, and the latest information about diseases around the world.

Traveler Destination – Travelers’ Health

The CDC provides information on what vaccines are required or highly recommended for travel to various destinations around the world. The site also offers tips on how to stay healthy and safe while abroad, and posts any health notices that travelers should be aware of.

Updated: July 27, 2017