Which Routine Vaccinations Are Most Important During the Pandemic?

Man receiving vaccine from his doctor.

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Key Takeaways

  • The COVID-19 pandemic is causing many people to fall behind on their vaccinations.
  • It's important for both young children and adults to stay up to date on their vaccinations.
  • A pneumonia vaccine, while not a COVID-19 preventative, is recommended by the World Health Organization.

Many people are choosing to steer clear of in-person medical care due to COVID-19, and they're missing routine vaccinations as a result. But doctors stress the importance of making sure your vaccines are up to date—especially during a pandemic.

Kate King, DNP, MS, RN, LSN, director of Health, Family, and Community Services at Columbus City Schools in Ohio, has noticed many students have fallen behind on their vaccinations.

“Our focus is on kindergarteners who missed their second MMR [measles, mumps, rubella] vaccinations. Thousands and thousands of them," King tells Verywell. "Parents are scared to take their children to the doctor and clinics are overwhelmed.”

On a global level, the United Nations (UN) predicted a much higher figure. This spring, UN health agencies forecasted 117 million children may miss measles shots due to COVID-19.

King and her staff are working to make sure the children get their next scheduled dose as soon as possible adding, “We don’t need a measles outbreak now.”

It’s not just children who need vaccinations. Adults living with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) might need extra protection this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind COVID-19 that attacks the respiratory system, weakens the pulmonary activity of already weakened lungs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following vaccines for people with COPD and asthma:

  • Flu
  • Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria)
  • Pertussis (whooping cough)
  • Shingles (for adults 50 and over)
  • Pneumonia (for adults 65 and over)

As communities begin to open up, it’s important for you to work with your healthcare provider to make sure you—or your kids—stay up to date on routine vaccines.

What This Means For You

Check with your doctor and see if they recommend you get vaccinated. Schedule office visits at off-peak times to reduce your risk of COVID-19 exposure.

Why Staying Up to Date On Vaccinations is Important

Immunizations are not just for infants and children. Protection offered by some childhood vaccines wears off as you age. Most otherwise healthy adults need vaccinations to help prevent them from getting and spreading serious diseases that could result in prolonged illness, missed work, and high medical bills.

Every adult who can safely get a flu (influenza) vaccine should do so every year. The flu shot is especially important for people with chronic health conditions, pregnant women, and older adults. Getting one this year can possibly protect you from the risk of contracting the flu and COVID-19 simultaneously.

Adults should also get the Tdap vaccine if they did not receive it as a teen to protect against pertussis (whooping cough), and then get a Td (tetanus, diphtheria) booster shot every 10 years. Pregnant women should get the Tdap vaccine between 27 through 36 weeks.

Pneumonia and COVID-19

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can cause pneumonia. The World Health Organization (WHO) highly recommends a pneumonia vaccine to protect your respiratory health. It’s especially important that adults with COPD or asthma take precautions to avoid COVID-19, although WHO clarifies that a pneumonia vaccine is not a vaccine or protection against COVID-19 itself.

Pneumonia Vaccinations

There are two vaccines that help prevent pneumococcal disease among adults 65 years or older. These vaccines are safe and effective, but they cannot be given at the same time, according to the CDC.

The two vaccines offer protection against pneumococcal disease:

  • Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23)
  • Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13)

The CDC recommends all adults 65 years or older get a shot of PPSV23. They also recommend adults 65 years or older get a shot of PCV13 if they have never received a dose and in addition, have a:

  • A weakened immune system
  • Cerebrospinal fluid leak
  • Cochlear (ear) implant

Older adults who have never received a pneumonia vaccine and do not have one of the conditions described above may also discuss vaccination with their vaccine provider to decide if PCV13 is appropriate for them.

If your doctor recommends you receive both vaccines, get PCV13 first. Talk to your doctor about when to come back to get PPSV23. If you’ve already received PPSV23, wait at least a year before getting PCV13.

Do I Need Another Vaccination?

The CDC offers an online questionnaire to help determine your possible need for adult vaccinations. You'll need to indicate:

  • Gender
  • Year of birth
  • If you have a weakened immune system
  • If you have a chronic illness
  • If you’ve had the chickenpox vaccine
  • If you work in health care

You can use the results of the questionnaire to determine which vaccines are recommended for you at your next medical appointment.

Going to Medical Offices During the COVID-19 Outbreak

To schedule a vaccination, call your doctor’s office and ask about ways they safely offer office visits during this time. Many medical offices are taking extra steps to make sure that visits can happen safely during the COVID-19 outbreak, including:

  • Scheduling sick visits and well visits during different times of the day or in different locations
  • Asking patients to remain outside until it’s time for their appointment to reduce the number of people in waiting rooms 

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What You Need to Know About COPD, Asthma, and Adult Vaccines.

  2. The World Health Organization. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: Mythbusters.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pneumonia Can Be Prevented—Vaccines Can Help.

By Erica Gerald Mason
Erica Gerald Mason is an Atlanta-based writer with a focus on mental health and wellness.