Top 5 Vaccinations Recommended for Adults With Diabetes

Sharon Orrange, MD, MPH, is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Division of Geriatric, Hospitalist and General Internal Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

We hear a lot about vaccination shots for children, but it turns out adults also need immunizations. People with diabetes need to pay special attention because they are more likely to get and experience complications from certain infectious diseases. The CDC recommends that adults with diabetes be up-to-date on five different vaccinations.

1) The flu vaccine

The most important vaccination is the annual flu shot. Since the circulating flu virus changes from year to year, it’s good to get into the ritual of getting a shot around September or October annually. Getting a bad case of the flu can lead to a lung infection called pneumonia.

2) Prevnar 13 and/or Pneumovax for pneumonia

People with diabetes should receive Prevnar 13 and/or Pneumovax to protect against the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia. Which one(s) you will need will depend on age. Everyone with diabetes between ages 19 and 64 should get the Prevnar 13 (PCV13) vaccination; those 65 years of age and older should get both the PCV13 and Pneumovax (PPSV23) shots. The two types of vaccinations should be given a year apart. If you are 65 or older and have never received either vaccine, start with PCV13 and follow it a year later with PPSV23.

3) The hepatitis B vaccine

Hepatitis B, or hep B, is commonly transmitted by blood, which means people with diabetes who use needles for insulin are at a higher risk of being infected. Vaccination can prevent the potential liver disease and liver cancer that can result from contracting hep B. Vaccination for hep B is recommended for people with diabetes who are under the age of 60.

4) Shingrix for shingles

There is a new, highly effective vaccine against the painful shingles disease for people age 50 and older. The brand name is Shingrix, and it requires two doses six months apart.

5) Tdap (Boostrix) for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis

Lastly, there is the Tdap (Boostrix) shot to protect against tetanus (lockjaw), diphtheria (an infection of the nose and throat), and pertussis (whooping cough). The shot both protects adult and prevents disease transmission to younger children.

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Taking these steps to get vaccinated can help prevent the complications of having diabetes. It may seem like a lot of shots, but only the flu shot is needed every year and the others work longer-term.

These vaccinations are available at your primary care doctor’s office as well as at pharmacies. Not every primary care physician is aware of the current vaccination needs of people with diabetes, and it can be hard for your diabetes doc to cover all of your diabetes concerns in a normal visit. So, be sure to keep a vaccination record and ask for your recommended vaccinations. For more information visit:

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