Catch-up vaccination and boosters

Some people may have missed a vaccination or did not get the recommended number of doses. They can still catch up.

Everyone should check if they have had the nationally recommended vaccinations, and consult a medical professional in case any catch-ups are needed. This may involve looking at vaccination records or the vaccination schedules in place when the person was born. For some diseases, such as varicella (chickenpox) and rubella, it is also possible to do a test to check if the person is immune.

If a person does not know if they have been vaccinated against a certain disease they can usually get an extra dose without increasing the risk of serious side effects.

measles vaccine
© iStock

Catch-up vaccination programmes for specific diseases may be organised. For example, due to an increasing number of measles cases among teenagers and young adults, catch-up programmes exist in a number of EU/EEA countries for people who may have missed the measles vaccination when they were younger or are too old to have received it as a child.

Most vaccines provide lifelong immunity.

However, some vaccines provide immunity that decreases over time, known as ‘waning immunity’. Some countries recommend booster doses at regular intervals during adolescence and adulthood, in order to maintain immunity over a longer period of time, against for example:

  • diphtheria
  • tetanus
  • pertussis (whooping cough)

Some countries recommend boosters specifically for individuals travelling or at increased risk of being exposed to the disease. 

Healthcare providers can provide information on the booster doses needed.

Page last updated 13 Mar 2020