Flu season is approaching, and it is important to know which vaccinations older adults should receive. According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), flu season in the US is typically between October and May. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends several vaccines for older adults. This post will detail 4 recommended vaccines for seniors, according to the CDC and NCOA, but be sure to check with your doctor to see if any of these are right for you or your older loved one, and if any others are recommended.
1. Flu Vaccine
The flu, or influenza, is a contagious respiratory illness that can be severe and life-threatening. The CDC recommends that everyone over six months of age get an annual flu vaccine. Seniors are particularly vulnerable to the flu, so it's extra important that they get vaccinated. In fact, the CDC estimates that in recent years, 71 to 85 percent of flu-related deaths have occurred among those aged 65 and older, and 54 percent and 70 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations have occurred among people in that age group.
According to the NCOA, you should get a flu shot annually. For older adults, it’s best that you get your vaccine as early in the season as possible to prevent contracting the flu from a loved one, caregiver, or friend.
2. Pneumococcal Vaccine
Pneumococcal disease causes severe infections throughout the bloodstream and/or key organs, and causes conditions including pneumonia, meningitis, and bacteremia. According to the NCOA, “pneumococcal disease kills 18,000 adults 65+ each year. A weakening immune system means that older adults are at greater risk, and can face more severe side effects.”
The pneumococcal vaccine, commonly referred to as the pneumonia vaccine, is a series of two shots typically given a year apart. Check with your doctor to see if you’ve already had any of these shots. The vaccine can usually be given by visiting your doctor, local clinic or pharmacy, and is covered by many health insurance plans – but your doctor or pharmacist will be able to advise you on that.
3. Shingles Vaccine
Shingles is a very painful skin rash that’s caused by the “reawakening” of the same virus responsible for chickenpox, which means, if you’ve ever had chickenpox, you’re at risk for developing shingles. According to the NCOA, one in three adults contract shingles at some point in their life—the majority of whom are 60 years or older. The older you are, the more severe your symptoms can become.
The CDC recommends that people 60 years of age or older should get shingles vaccine, and that they should get the vaccine whether or not they recall having had chickenpox. Studies show that more than 99% of Americans aged 40 and older have had chickenpox, even if they don't remember getting the disease. There is no maximum age for getting shingles vaccine. You can visit your doctor, local clinic or pharmacy to receive the shingles vaccines.
4. Tdap and MMR Vaccines
Many older adults have been vaccinated against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis/whooping cough. However, if you've never received a booster shot to protect against these diseases, you may need to get the Tdap vaccine. The CDC recommends that adults should get one dose of the tetanus and diphtheria (Td) vaccine every 10 years. For adults who did not get Tdap as a preteen or teen, they should get one dose of Tdap in place of a Td dose to boost protection against whooping cough. However, adults who need protection against whooping cough can get Tdap at any time, regardless of when they last got Td.
In addition, those born after 1957 who aren't sure if they've been vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella should receive the MMR vaccine. Check with your doctor to see if they recommend these vaccinations for you.
Stay Healthy, Get Vaccinated
Getting these vaccines is an important part of healthy aging, and they also help ensure the health of your friends and family. Call your doctor to see if these vaccines are right for your health. Ask your pharmacist, doctor’s office, or call your Medicare or private health insurance provider to see if they will cover the cost of these vaccines (typically they do!) Prevention is usually the best tool to stay active and healthy!