Did you get your flu shot yet? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that adults receive their seasonal flu vaccine by the end of October.
Some people think that immunizations are just for children, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Vaccines protect us from harmful diseases throughout life—and older adults are often at higher risk of contracting these diseases and suffering serious complications from them. The CDC says that seniors who have heart disease, asthma, lung disease and diabetes can be at particularly high risk of serious complications.
But we can lower the risk of catching these infectious diseases. Here are the immunizations that are currently recommended for most older adults:
Annual flu vaccine. We need to get a shot each year, because the influenza viruses that spread are different each year. For people older than 65, a higher-dose shot may be recommended. The CDC is not recommending the nasal spray flu vaccine for anyone this year; that type is never recommended for people older than 65.
Tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis. Tetanus (sometimes called “lockjaw”) and diphtheria are severe, often fatal diseases. Pertussis (“whooping cough”) causes spasms of severe coughing. The vaccines for these three diseases are given in different combinations; ask your doctor which type is recommended for you.
Shingles. Shingles is a painful, blistering rash that is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Shingles usually clears up after a few weeks. But some people—most of them seniors—will develop complications such as postherpetic neuralgia, a very painful and debilitating condition that can last for a long time. A person can get shingles more than once. The vaccine is recommended for people aged 60 and older.
Pneumonia (pneumococcal disease). Pneumococcal illness can be very dangerous, causing damage to the lungs, brain, spinal cord and bloodstream, and can lead to hearing and vision loss, seizures, and death. The CDC recommends that adults age 65 or older receive two types of pneumococcal vaccine. The two vaccines are not given at the same time.
Other vaccines. People with certain health problems, immunization histories and lifestyles may need additional vaccines. These might include the measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) shot, vaccinations for hepatitis A and hepatitis B, and for meningococcal disease. People who are planning foreign travel might need other shots, as well.
By getting vaccinated, you not only protect yourself, but also babies who aren’t old enough to be vaccinated, and vulnerable adults who cannot be vaccinated. Medicare and most private insurances will pay for immunizations. So roll up your sleeve for better health!
The information in this article is not meant to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Talk to your doctor about the immunizations you should receive, and maintain an up-to-date immunization record to keep with your other important documents.