Top 20 Vaccines You Should Know About

Why They Are Recommended by the CDC

Doctor applying bandaid to child's arm after vaccination

Steve Debenport / iStock / Getty Images

Vaccines are among the best ways a parent can protect their children from certain infectious diseases. Vaccines can also prevent diseases in adults and limit the spread of infection through communities. In some cases, vaccines have completely eliminated once-dreaded diseases.

It is important that everyone gets vaccinated per the immunization schedule recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—not only for their own health but for the health of others.

Hepatitis B Vaccine

Hepatitis B is a viral disease that causes liver inflammation and damage. Over time, chronic hepatitis B infection can cause cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer.

In the United States, 1.25 million people are chronically infected with HBV, of whom 36% are infected during childhood. Up to 25% of those infected as infants will die as a result of liver disease in later years—which is why it is important to prevent infection by vaccinating at birth.

There are three HBV vaccines licensed for use in the United States, each of which is delivered by intramuscular injection (IM).

Trade Name Doses Age Route
Engerix-B 3 From birth and over IM
Heplisav-B 2 18 years and over IM
Recombivax HB 3 From birth and over IM

Diphtheria, Tetanus, Acellular Pertussis (DTaP)

DTaP vaccine is a combination vaccine that protects against three different bacterial diseases:

  • Pertussis ("whooping cough") is a highly contagious bacteria that causes respiratory illness lasting two or more weeks, typically with a cough that sounds like a whoop. Pertussis in infants can lead to pneumonia, seizures, brain damage, and death.
  • Diphtheria is a bacteria that causes sore throat, fever, swollen lymph nodes, and weakness. In some cases, diphtheria can lead to organ damage due to toxins produced by the bacteria.
  • Tetanus, also known as lockjaw, causes muscular contractions that it make difficult to open the mouth, swallow, and breathe. Around 10% of tetanus cases are fatal.

There are two DTaP vaccines approved for use in the United States.

Trade Name Doses Age Route
Daptacel 5 6 weeks to 6 years IM
Infanrix 5 6 weeks to 6 years  IM

Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Acellular Pertussis (Tdap)

The Tdap vaccine is a combination vaccine used to boost immunity against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. There is also the Td vaccine that protects against tetanus and diphtheria.

Tdap vaccination is currently recommended for:

  • Children between 7 and 10 years who were not fully vaccinated with other whooping cough vaccines, like DTaP.
  • Children between 11 and 18 years, preferably between the ages of 11 and 12.
  • Adults 19 years and older as a one-time dose, followed by a Td or Tdap booster every 10 years.
  • Pregnant people between 27 and 36 weeks of each pregnancy.
  • People 65 years and older if they are going to be in close contact with a newborn or an infant younger than 12 months.

There are two Tdap vaccines approved for use in the United States.

Trade Name Doses Age Route
Adacel 1 10 years to 64 years IM
Boosterix 1 10 years and over IM

Haemophilus influenzae Type B (Hib)

The Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine protects against Haemophilus influenzae type b, a bacteria that can cause pneumonia, meningitis (inflammation of the protective membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord), and epiglottitis (inflammation of the cartilage flap covering the windpipe).

There are three Hib vaccines approved for use in the United States.

Trade Name Doses Age Route
ActHIB 4 2 months to 5 years IM
Hiberix 4 6 weeks to 4 years IM
PedvaxHIB 3 2 to 71 months IM

Pneumococcal Vaccine

Pneumococcal vaccines protect against Streptococcus pneumoniae, a bacteria that can cause pneumonia, meningitis, and bacteremia (bacterial infection of the bloodstream).

There are two pneumococcal vaccines approved for use in the United States:

  • Prevnar 13 (PCV13), delivered by intramuscular injection, is recommended for all children under 2 years of age and people 2 years and older with certain medical conditions. Adults 65 and over can also get the vaccine based on a shared decision with their doctor
  • Pneumovax23 (PPSV23), delivered either by intramuscular or subcutaneous (SC) injection, is recommended for people 2 to 64 years with certain medical conditions, adults 19 to 64 who smoke, and all adults 65 and over.
Trad Name Doses Age Route
Pneumovax23 1 2 years and over IM or SC
Prevnar 13 4 6 weeks and over IM

Inactivated Poliovirus

Polio is a rare viral infection transmitted through contaminated water or food and direct contact with an infected person. The vast majority of infections occur with no symptoms. Less than 1% of those infected will develop paralytic poliomyelitis, while between 1% and 5% will experience non-paralytic meningitis.

There is one polio vaccine approved for use in the United States, called Ipol, that is made with an inactivated (dead) virus.

Trade Name Doses Age Route
Ipol 4 6 weeks and over IM or SC

The live oral polio vaccine, used in the United States for almost 40 years, was discontinued in 2000 due to the potential risk of vaccine-induced poliomyelitis.

Rotavirus Vaccine

Rotavirus is a viral infection that can cause severe gastroenteritis (stomach flu) in infants and children, leading the dehydration and, in some cases, death. Rotavirus is the most common cause of childhood diarrhea worldwide. Roughly 80% of rotavirus deaths occur in the developing world.

Prior to the development of a rotavirus vaccine, an estimated three million cases occurred in the United States every year.

There are two rotavirus vaccines licensed for use, each of which are delivered orally (by mouth).

Brand Name Doses Age Route
Rotarix 2 6 to 24 weeks Oral (liquid)
RotaTeq 3 6 to 32 weeks Oral (liquid)

Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR)

The MMR vaccine is a combination vaccine that protects against three different diseases:

  • Measles is a viral disease spread by respiratory droplets that causes a widespread rash and can lead to encephalopathy (brain damage).
  • Mumps is a viral disease that causes the painful inflammation of the salivary glands and can also affect the pancreas, testicles, and brain.
  • Rubella (German measles) is a viral disease that affects the skin, lymph nodes, and joints. It can cause birth defects in babies if an infection occurs during pregnancy.

There is one MMR vaccine approved for use in the United States.

Trade Name Doses Age Route
M-M-R 2 2 12 months and over SC

Varicella Vaccine

Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) causes chickenpox. The disease is highly contagious, causing itchy, fluid-filled blisters on the skin. Young children are at the greatest risk of hospitalization from chickenpox, which is why childhood vaccination is important.

There is one varicella vaccine, called Varivax, approved for use in the United States.

Trade Name Doses Age Route
Varivax 2 12 months and over SC

Hepatitis A Vaccine

Hepatitis A is a viral disease that causes liver inflammation. It is associated with poor hygiene and is typically transmitted by the oral-fecal route. Though rarely fatal, hepatitis A can cause epidemics, which are a major threat to public health and safety.

There are two hepatitis A vaccines approved for use in the United States.

Trade Name Doses Age Route
Havrix 2 12 months and over IM
Vaqta 2 12 months and over IM

Influenza Vaccine

The influenza vaccine protects against seasonal flu. For most people, seasonal flu is nothing more than a nuisance, causing short-term illness. However, for some, flu can be severe and even life-threatening. Babies, older adults, and people with compromised immune systems are among those with a high risk of complications.

Because the virus mutates quickly, annual vaccination is needed to avoid infection.

While most flu vaccines are given by injection, there is one that is delivered by nasal spray (FluMist) and another that can be administered with a jet injector (Afluria). Two of the vaccines (Fluad and Fluzone High-Dose) are specified for use in older adults only, who tend to have a less robust immune response to traditional flu vaccines.

Annual flu vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older. There are nine different flu vaccines approved for use in the United States.

Trade Name Doses Age Route
Afluria 1-2 6 months and over IM or jet injector
Fluad 1 65 years and over IM
Fluarix 1-2 6 months and over IM
Flublok 1 18 years and over IM
Flucelvax 1-2 4 years and over IM
FluLaval 1-2 6 months and over IM
FluMist 1-2 2 years to 49 years Nasal spray
Fluzone 1-2 6 months and over IM
Fluzone High-Dose 1 65 years and over IM

Children 6 months to 8 years who have never been vaccinated should get two doses of the flu vaccine, with each dose separated by at least four weeks. Everyone else needs only a single dose each year.

Meningococcal Vaccine

Meningococcal vaccines protect against meningococcal disease, an illness caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitides. Infection with N. meningitides can lead to meningitis, bacteremia, and septicemia.

Some meningococcal vaccines (called meningococcal conjugate vaccines) protect against common forms of the bacteria, namely serogroups A, C, W, and Y. Others protect against serogroup B bacteria, the most frequent cause of meningococcal disease in adolescents and young adults in the United States.

There are five meningococcal vaccines currently licensed for use.

Trade Name Doses Age Route Serogroups
Bexsero 2 10 years to 25 years IM B
Menactra 2 9 months to 55 years IM A, C, W, Y
MedQuadfi 1 2 years and over IM A, C, W, Y
Menveo 2 2 months to 55 years IM A, C, W, Y
Trumenba 2-3 10 years to 25 years IM B

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of related viruses, some of which cause genital warts and others of which can lead to cervical cancer, anal cancer, and other types of cancer.

The CDC currently recommends vaccination in adolescents between 11 and 12 years of age. Vaccination can be started as early as age 9. The vaccine is also recommended for people through age 26 years who have not been adequately vaccinated. Adults 27 to 45 may also be vaccinated based on a shared decision with their doctor.

There is one HPV vaccine, called Gardasil-9, approved for use in the United States.

Trade Name Doses Age Route
Gardasil-9 2-3 9 years to 45 years IM

Shingles Vaccine

The herpes zoster vaccine protects against shingles, a painful condition caused by the reactivation of the chickenpox virus later in life. In addition to causing painful, blistering lesions, shingles can lead to severe complications, including chronic post-herpetic pain and even vision loss if the eye is involved.

The HZV vaccine is given to adults 50 and older who are at a high risk of shingles. There is only one shingles vaccine available in the United States, called Shingrix.

Trade Name Doses Age Route
Shingrix 2 50 years and over IM

An earlier shingles vaccine, called Zostavax, was discontinued in November 2020. Even if you've received Zostavax in the past, the CDC still recommends that you get vaccinated with Shingrix.

COVID-19

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory infection that became a pandemic in 2020. Symptoms are variable, ranging from mild flu-like symptoms and the loss of taste or smell to pneumonia, respiratory failure, shock, and death. It is still not entirely clear why some people develop severe symptoms and others don't.

In 2020 and 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization (EUA) to three COVID-19 vaccines.

Trade Name Doses Age Route
Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 2 12 years and over IM
Moderna COVID-19 2 18 years and over IM
Janssen/Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 1 18 years and over IM

Rabies Vaccine

Rabies is a serious viral illness transmitted by the saliva of infected animals. It can take weeks or months for symptoms to appear, but once they do, rabies almost always leads to death. Rabies is rare in the United States and other parts of the developed world. The greatest number of cases are seen in India, China, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Even so, people in the United States who are at risk of exposure (including veterinarians, animal handlers, spelunkers, or rabies laboratory workers) may be offered the vaccine as a precaution. The same applies to travelers to parts of the world where rabies is widespread.

Similarly, people who are bitten by animals, including domestic ones, are routinely given a rabies shot as a precaution. Bats are the most common source of rabies in the United States, although raccoons, foxes, and skunks can also be carriers.

There are two rabies vaccines available for use in the United States.

Trade Name Doses Age Route
Imovax 3-5 All ages IM
RabAvert 3-5 All ages IM

Three doses of the vaccine are used for pre-exposure vaccination (to prevent infection), while five doses are used for post-exposure prophylaxis (to avert infection after possible exposure).

Cholera Vaccine

Cholera is a gastrointestinal illness caused by the Vibrio cholera bacteria. Cholera causes watery diarrhea that can run the gamut from mild to life-threatening. The infection is transmitted through contaminated water in areas with poor sanitation.

Cholera is rare in the United States and not a disease for which American residents are routinely vaccinated. The vaccine is used for people traveling to (or living in) tropical areas where the disease is widespread. Some countries will require proof of vaccination before you are allowed to enter.

There is one cholera vaccine, called Vaxchora, that is given as a single dose at least 10 days before travel to an endemic region.

Trade Name Doses Age Route
Vaxchora 1 18 years to 64 years Oral (liquid)

Japanese Encephalitis Virus (JEV)

Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) is a mosquito-borne disease that occurs mainly in rural and agricultural parts of Asia and the West Pacific. Most JEV infections are mild but, in some people, the infection can turn serious and cause brain inflammation, seizures, and even death.

There is one JEV vaccine licensed for use in the United States, called Ixiaro, that is given in two doses and completed at least one week before travel to an endemic region.

Trade Name Doses Age Route
Ixiaro 2 2 months and over IM

Yellow Fever Vaccine

Yellow fever is another mosquito-borne viral disease common in sub-Saharan Africa and South America. An infection can cause fever, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, and the characteristic yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice). Severe cases can lead to gastrointestinal bleeding, acute kidney failure, encephalopathy, and cerebral hemorrhage.

Yellow fever vaccination is indicated for adults traveling to endemic regions. There is one yellow fever vaccine, called YF-Vax, given as a single dose at least 10 days before travel.

Trade Name Doses Age Route
YF-Vax 1 9 months and over SC

Typhoid Vaccine

Typhoid fever is a bacterial infection called Salmonella typhi. Symptoms include high fever, weakness, fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, stomach pain, and occasionally a rash. The bacteria is transmitted via contaminated food and water.

Typhoid is prevalent in parts of the world with poor sanitation, including parts of Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Central America, South America, and the Middle East.

There are two typhoid vaccines available for use in the United States, both of which are given before travel to an endemic region.

Trade Name Doses Age Route
Typhim Vi 1 2 years and over IM
Vivotif 4 6 years and over Oral (capsules)

Tymphim Vi should be given at least two weeks before departure to an endemic region, while the Vivotif vaccine series should be completed at least a week before travel.

Before traveling abroad, check the CDC traveler advisory website for vaccine recommendations for your destination.

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