The 5 Biggest Changes in the 2023 Adult Vaccine Schedules

Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, MD


February 09, 2023

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Hello. I'm Dr Sandra Fryhofer. Welcome to Medicine Matters. The topic is highlights from ACIP's new adult schedule for 2023, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, and why this new schedule may be a collector's item.

It's a new year, which means a new ACIP adult immunization schedule — a valuable resource collating ACIP's most up-to-date vaccination recommendations.

Here are this year’s five most important changes:

  • COVID vaccines now front and center

  • New emphasis on polio vaccination

  • Inclusion of some nonvaccine products (such as monoclonal antibody products)

  • Pharmacists group has approved the schedule for the first time

  • New shared clinical decision-making option for pneumococcal vaccines

The schedule's organization remains the same. It still has four sections:

  • Table 1: vaccinations by age

  • Table 2: vaccinations by medical condition and other indications

  • The Notes section (alphabetically ordered by vaccine type)

  • Appendix listing of vaccine-specific contraindications and precautions

But what's unique this year is that some of the abbreviations have historical implications. The first change is no big surprise in light of what we've gone through in the past few years. COVID vaccines are listed first on the cover page by brand name for those authorized and by company name for those still under US emergency use authorization. They're also listed first on the graphics and in the notes.

COVID and mRNA and protein-based vaccines have now been assigned official abbreviations based on vaccine platform and valency.

  • 1vCOV-mRNA: Comirnaty/Pfizer-BioNTech and Spikevax Moderna COVID-19 vaccines

  • 2vCOV-mRNA: Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna bivalent COVID-19 vaccines

  • 1vCOV-aPS: Novavax COVID-19 vaccine

Also remarkable is the absence of COVID viral vector vaccines on the list. However, the viral vector COVID vaccine (which has been available but is not preferred) does have a CDC website link in the Notes section.

A sad but necessary inclusion was triggered by recent polio cases in New York. Polio was believed to be eradicated, and we thought adults no longer needed to be vaccinated against polio. In the new schedule, the polio vaccine is listed on the cover page but is not included in the tables. Current polio vaccination recommendations are now in the Notes section.

Also of historical significance and something that may set a precedent is the inclusion of nonvaccine products. The value of COVID preexposure prophylaxis with products including monoclonal antibodies (such as Evusheld) for people who are moderately or severely immunocompromised is mentioned in the Notes section.

For the first time ever, the schedule has been approved by the American Pharmacists Association, which validates pharmacists as established partners in vaccine administration.

Color-Code Key

One aspect of the schedule that has not changed is the color-code key:

  • Yellow: Recommended if the patient meets the age requirement

  • Purple: Indicated for those with additional risk factors or another indication

  • Blue: Recommended based on shared clinical decision-making

  • Orange: Precaution

  • Red: Contraindicated or not recommended; the vaccine should not be administered. Overlays on the red more precisely clarify whether a vaccine is really contraindicated or just not recommended. An asterisk on red means vaccinate after pregnancy if indicated.

  • Gray: No recommendation or not applicable

Vaccinations by Age

Table 1 lists recommended vaccinations by age. There is one major change. COVID vaccines are on the first row of the graphic, with the need for both a primary series and boosters emphasized on the overlay. The notes have hyperlinks to the most up-to-date COVID vaccination recommendations.

Highlights from Table 1:

Pneumococcal vaccination. Pneumococcal vaccination is routinely recommended starting at age 65. Current recommendations for those not previously vaccinated have not changed since last year. But on Table 1, the bottom half of the row for those 65 or older is now blue (and that's new). This new color blue means shared clinical decision-making and applies to people who were previously considered fully vaccinated with the now extinct combination of PCV13 and PPSV23. These patients now have the option of getting a dose of PCV20 five years after completing their PCV13-PPSV23 combo series. This option is blue because the decision is up to you and your patient.

Check the notes for more pneumococcal vaccination details. For example, for those partially vaccinated using lower valency vaccines, there's an option of substituting PCV20 for PPSV23 to broaden and increase durability of protection.

The pneumococcal vaccination recommendation options are complicated. A new pneumococcal vaccination app can help.

Hepatitis B. For adults under age 60, the color code for the hepatitis B vaccine is yellow, meaning it's indicated for all. For older patients, the color code is purple. If a patient who is age 60 or older wants the hepatitis B vaccine, they can have it even in the absence of additional risk indications.

Vaccinations by Medical Condition or Other Indications

Other than a few minor word changes on the overlay, the only thing that's new is the COVID vaccine row.

This table is helpful for matching vaccine recommendations with specific medical conditions, including pregnancy, immunocompromise, HIV (with specifics according to CD4 count), asplenia, complement deficiencies, heart disease, lung disease, alcoholism, chronic liver disease, diabetes, healthcare personnel, and men who have sex with men.

Use this table to dot the i's and cross the t's when it comes to vaccination recommendations. For example, take a look at the pregnancy column. Live virus vaccines, including LAIV, MMR, and varicella, are contraindicated and color-coded red. MMR and varicella also have an asterisk, meaning vaccinate after pregnancy if indicated. HPV vaccines are not live virus vaccines, but the overlay says they are not recommended during pregnancy. The asterisk indicates that you can vaccinate after pregnancy.

Vaccine Notes

The notes are in alphabetical order, and their organization (routine, special situations, and shared clinical decision-making when indicated) has not changed. They are concise and succinct, but sometimes they're not enough. That's why vaccine-specific links to more complete recommendations are so convenient.

Notes for hepatitis B contain nuances on specific dosing for vaccinating patients on dialysis, as well as a reminder that newer hepatitis B vaccines such as Heplisav and PreHevbrio are not recommended during pregnancy due to lack of safety data.

For influenza, everyone 6 months or older still needs yearly flu vaccination with an age- and health-appropriate flu vaccine. But for those aged 65 or older, the notes specify the three vaccine versions now preferred: high-dose, recombinant, or adjuvanted versions. However, if these aren't available, it's better to get any flu vaccine than to go without.

Under meningococcal vaccines, the notes for MenACWY and MenB are combined. For MenB, trade names Bexsero and Trumenba are specified because the products are not interchangeable. Booster intervals for those still at risk are different for each vaccine type: every 5 years for MenACWY boosters, and every 2-3 years for boosts of MenB.

The recent polio cases in New York have put polio vaccination in the spotlight. ACIP has now reinstated its Polio Vaccine Work Group. The new schedule lists polio vaccines on the cover page. Current recommendations have been added to the notes section. Routine vaccination for adults is not necessary, at least for now. However, those at increased risk for exposure to polio fall in the special-situation category. For those at increased risk who have completed a polio vaccine series, a single lifetime IPV booster can be given. For those at increased risk who have not completed their polio vaccine series, now would be the time to finish the series.


The final step in using the new schedule is checking the appendix and its list of vaccine-specific contraindications and precautions.

I hope this review of the new ACIP adult immunization schedule has been helpful. For Medicine Matters, I'm Dr Sandra Fryhofer.

Follow Medscape on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.