What to Expect at Your Annual Physical: Vaccinations

What to Expect at Your Annual Physical: Vaccinations

Annual physicals are something we all need to get, but they don’t just happen. The key is making an appointment and actually going! Your doctor probably won’t send you home with a long list of things that are wrong with you at the end of the visit, but an annual physical can still help identify issues before they become problems. Here’s what your doctor will be looking for during your annual checkup:

This physical may be the only time you see your primary care doctor in a year, so it’s important to make the most of it.

The annual physical is a great time to ask your doctor about all the things you’ve been meaning to, but haven’t gotten around to yet. For example:

  • Vaccinations. In addition to any other vaccinations you may need (such as travel vaccines or tetanus), you should definitely ask your doctor about getting an annual flu shot and making sure that your tetanus shot is up-to-date. The CDC recommends getting vaccinated against tetanus every 10 years; if you’re currently under 60 years old and haven’t received this vaccination in the past 10 years, it’s important that you get one before starting any projects with sharp objects (like gardening or woodworking).
  • Boosters for other vaccines. If there are any other vaccines that your child may need—such as those for measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) or chicken pox—make sure they’re up-to-date too! If these vaccines were given more than five years ago then an additional booster dose can be given after another 5 years have passed since their last dose was due.

Ask your doctor about getting vaccinated against illnesses like influenza and pneumonia, which can be especially serious for adults over 65.

If you’re over 65, don’t let the annual physical be the only time you go to your doctor. If you haven’t been vaccinated against illnesses like influenza and pneumonia, ask your doctor about getting shots. The flu can be especially dangerous for older people — older adults are more likely to die from complications caused by the illness than younger groups. Flu shots are recommended for everyone over 65 years old; however, pneumonia shots aren’t recommended for everyone over this age because they aren’t as effective in older adults with chronic lung disease or other conditions that limit their immune system function.

Ask about getting a tetanus shot if you haven’t had one in ten years.

You might be surprised to learn that there are some vaccinations you can get at your annual physical. For example, in the United States, we recommend that everyone receive a tetanus booster shot every 10 years. That’s because tetanus is a serious disease caused by bacteria that grows in soil and animal waste and enters the body through cuts or open wounds such as cuts from gardening tools or playground equipment (or even getting a tattoo). It can also affect people who have an illness like diabetes or multiple sclerosis; those conditions weaken their immune systems.

If you haven’t received a tetanus vaccine within the past ten years, it’s important to get one now—as well as any other needed vaccines—to boost your immunity before summer fun begins!

If you’re traveling abroad in the near future, review the CDC’s travel vaccination recommendations with your doctor before you leave.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends certain vaccinations before traveling abroad. Check the CDC website for updates to these recommendations.
  • Discuss your travel plans with your doctor and review the CDC’s vaccination recommendations before you leave. If a vaccine is recommended by the CDC, get it before you go, since some require multiple doses over several weeks or months to be fully effective.
  • Some vaccines can be given as combination shots (e.g., MMRV), which require fewer visits than multiple individual shots would require. Other combination vaccines are available if you have already had one of the components separately (e.g., DTaP-IPV/Hib).

Annual physicals are important for adults, even when you’re healthy.

As a child, you might have had to visit the doctor for an annual physical, but as an adult it’s different. It’s important to keep in mind that even healthy adults should go in for annual checkups.

In addition to being a chance to catch issues early on, an annual physical can ensure that your medications are working well and ask questions about your health and get answers.


While this may be the only time you see your primary care doctor in a year, it’s important to make the most of it. Take advantage of this opportunity to ask questions, discuss concerns and get tested for any health issues that may not show up on their own during regular visits.



Emma is a health enthusiast, skilled blogger, and website manager dedicated to promoting primary health and wellness through Vital Primary Health.

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