Vaccines are the key to maintaining good health in seniors age 65 and older. And, it’s not only the flu vaccine, which is heavily publicized every winter during the flu season. Indeed, there are several others that are just as important.
Vaccines: Which Ones Do Seniors Really Need?
Seniors should get the basic five vaccines as their minimum baseline. Here they are:
It’s close to unanimous among healthcare professionals, that seniors need the flu vaccine. As the virus changes every year, updating your vaccine shot is necessary. The flu season starts in October and ends in March. As it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to take hold, it’s best to get a head start and get the injection early in the month. Your risk of hospitalization and even death increases if you avoid getting the shot.
Keep in mind that even if you’re vaccinated, there’s still a possibility you could get the flu. How well the vaccination works also depends on your health status and any chronic illnesses you may have. The fact is that a 2017 study found that flu vaccination reduced ICU admissions and the length of hospital stays among flu patients, including seniors.
The CDC recommends two pneumonia shots vaccines spaced one year apart, for healthy seniors 65 and older. You first receive a dose of the (PCV13), then a dose of PPSV23, one year later. Consult with your doctor if you suffer from any chronic illness before you take these injections.
Pneumonia is a killer disease, so don’t be nonchalant about getting vaccinated. It kills more people in the U.S. each year than all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined. Young children and seniors over 65 have the highest incidence of serious illness, and older adults are more likely to die from it. Experts estimate these vaccinations prevented more than 30,000 cases of pneumonia and 3,000 deaths in its first three years of use.
TDAP stands for tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough). This vaccine was introduced in 2005, and lasts for 10 years.
Due to increases in whooping cough cases, getting TDAP vaccinated is important, especially if you’re over 65 years old.
The CDC recommends that everyone 50 and older get the new shingles vaccine, Shingrix, even if they had the earlier recommended vaccine, Zostavax which was much less effective.
One in three people will get shingles, usually after age 50. The risk increases with age. By age 85, half of adults will have had at least one outbreak. Chicken pox and shingles are caused by the same virus, varicella zoster. After a person recovers from chicken pox, this virus stays dormant for decades in the body. And, it can reappear anytime the immune system is weakened by stress, medication or disease.
The CDC recommends a dosage schedule of two doses spaced two to six months apart. Ask your doctor about the re-vaccination schedule.
Vaccines: Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is transmitted through contaminated human body fluids. Other risk factors can include kidney dialysis or traveling to countries where hepatitis B is common.
The CDC estimates that the estimated number of new Hepatitis B infections in 2016 was 21,000.
The vaccine is given in three doses, spaced 4 weeks to 5 months apart.
Bottom line: Get vaccinated.