2021 ACIP Adult Schedule Released | Nutrition Fit



The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its recommended immunization schedule for adults for 2021.

A summary of the annual update was published online today in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report and is available in Annals of Internal Medicine and on the CDC website.

It features a special section on vaccination during the pandemic as well as interim recommendations on administering the Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.

The authors, led by Mark S. Freedman, DVM, MPH, DACVPM, of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, in Atlanta, Georgia, note that this year’s recommendations for adults ― persons aged 19 years and older ― are largely the same as last year’s. “There have been very few changes,” Freedman told Medscape Medical News. “Changes to the schedule tables and notes were made to harmonize to the greatest extent possible the adult and child/adolescent schedules.”

Changes in the schedule include new or updated ACIP recommendations for influenza, hepatitis A, hepatitis B (Hep B), and human papillomavirus (HPV) as well as for meningococcal serogroups A, C, W, and Y (MenACYW) vaccines, meningococcal B (MenB) vaccines, and the zoster vaccine.

Vaccine-Specific Changes


The schedule highlights updates to the composition of several influenza vaccines, which apply to components in both trivalent and quadrivalent formulations.

The cover page abbreviation for live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) was changed to LAIV4. The abbreviation for live recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV) was changed to RIV4.

For individuals with a history of egg allergy who experience reactions other than hives, the following procedural warning has been added: “If using an influenza vaccine other than RIV4 or ccIIV4, administer in medical setting under supervision of health care provider who can recognize and manage severe allergic reactions.”


The zoster vaccine live (Zostavax) has been removed from the schedule because it is no longer available in the United States. The recombinant zoster vaccine Shingrix remains available as a 2-dose regimen for adults aged 50 years or older.


As in previous years, HPV vaccination is routinely recommended for persons aged 11 to 12 years, with catch-up vaccination for those aged 26 or younger. Catch-up vaccination can be considered with shared decision making for those aged 27 through 45. In this year’s schedule, in the pregnancy column, the color pink, which formerly indicated “delay until after pregnancy,” has been replaced with red and an asterisk, indicating “vaccinate after pregnancy.”


ACIP continues to recommend vaccination of adults at risk for HepB; however, the text overlay has been changed to read, “2, 3, or 4 doses, depending on vaccine or condition.” Additionally, HepB vaccination is now routinely recommended for adults younger than 60 years with diabetes. For those with diabetes who are older than 60, shared decision making is recommended.

Meningococcal vaccine

ACIP continues to recommend routine vaccination with a quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenACWY) for persons at increased risk for meningococcal disease caused by serogroups A, C, W, or Y. The MenQuadfi (MenACWY-TT) vaccine, which was first licensed in 2020, has been added to all relevant sections of MenACWY vaccines. For MenACWY booster doses, new text addresses special situations, including outbreaks.

Improvements have been made to text and layout, Freedman said. An example is the minimizing of specialized text. Other changes were made to ensure more consistent text structure and language. Various fine-tunings of color and positioning were made to the cover page and tables, and the wording of the notes sections was improved.

Vaccination in the Pandemic

The updated schedule outlines guidance on the use of COVID-19 vaccines approved by the US Food and Drug Administration under emergency use authorization, with interim recommendations for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for people aged 16 and older and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for people aged 18 and older.

The authors stress the importance of receiving the recommended routine and catch-up immunizations notwithstanding widespread anxiety about visiting medical offices. Last spring, the CDC reported a dramatic drop in child vaccinations after the declaration of the national emergency in mid-March, a drop attributed to fear of COVID-19 exposure.

“ACIP continued to meet and make recommendations during the pandemic,” Freedman said. “Our recommendation remains that despite challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, adults and their healthcare providers should follow the recommended vaccine schedule to protect against serious and sometimes deadly diseases.”

Regular vaccines can be safely administered even as COVID-19 retains its grasp on the United States. “Healthcare providers should follow the CDC’s interim guidance for the safe delivery of vaccines during the pandemic, which includes the use of personal protective equipment and physical distancing,” Freedman said.

Freedman has disclosed no relevant financial relationships. Coauthor Bernstein is the editor of the Current Opinion in Pediatrics Office Pediatrics Series, is a Harvard School of Public Health faculty member, and is a member of the data safety and monitoring board for a Takeda study on intrathecal enzymes for Hunter and San Filippo syndromes. Coauthor Ault has served on the data safety and monitoring committee for ACI Clinical.

Morb Mortl Wkly Rep. Published online February 12, 2021. Full text

Ann Intern Med. Published online February 12, 2021. Full text

Diana Swift is medical journalist based in Toronto. [email protected].

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