Mar 24

The Immunizations Most Older Adults Need

When it comes to immunizations for older adults, the old saying that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” still holds true today. Vaccinations are an important preventative step for seniors, especially for those who have weaker immune systems because of a health condition.

Unfortunately, many seniors in this country are under-immunized. According to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, almost 50,000 adults die every year from diseases that could have been prevented if they were vaccinated.

4 Vaccines to Discuss with Your Primary Care Doctor after Age 65

 There are four vaccinations the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises seniors age 65 and over to discuss with their primary care physician.

  1. Influenza (Flu)

Older adults account for a startling 90% of the 36,000 flu deaths each year. Receiving an influenza vaccine in October or early November is what most physicians recommend. It helps prevent seniors from contracting the virus and lessen the severity of symptoms if they do develop the flu. Your doctor may recommend a high-potency flu vaccine, Fluzone, that’s designed for specifically to offer additional immune protection for seniors. Medicare covers the expense of the flu shot every year.

  1. Pneumococcal (Pneumonia)

Adults over the age of 65 are at higher risk for pneumonia. This is why most physicians encourage older patients to receive the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV). It contains antibodies that help fight over twenty common strains of pneumonia-causing bacteria. This one-time vaccine is covered under Medicare Part B.

  1. TDap or Td Vaccine (Tetanus/Diphtheria/Pertussis)

This combination vaccine protects seniors against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough). Each of these conditions is caused by bacteria. Most physicians advise senior patients to get a Td booster every 10 years to stay protected.

  1. Shingles (Herpes zoster)

The herpes zoster is a one-time vaccine which helps protect older adults against a very painful outbreak of shingles. Any senior who had chicken pox as a child likely has the virus in their body and should speak with their primary care physician about being vaccinated. This viral infection affects over one million Americans each year. While it isn’t life threatening, shingles is very painful. Symptoms include blisters, rash, headache, chills and fever. It’s important to note that the severity of symptoms increases with age.   

Additional Vaccines Seniors Should Consider

For seniors with certain medical conditions, the CDC also suggests talking with your physician about the Measles/Mumps/Rubella (MMR) shot, as well as vaccinations for hepatitis A and B, and for meningococcal disease (Meningitis).

The CDC developed this quick Adult Vaccine Quiz you can take to help you better understand which vaccines you might need to talk with your family doctor about during your next visit.