Recommended Vaccinations for Seniors

The older you get, the more likely you are to skip out on important vaccinations. Part of the reason so many adults and seniors do not get the necessary vaccinations has to do with not knowing that adult vaccinations against certain illnesses exist in the first place.

Many adults make the mistake of believing vaccinations are no longer necessary once you are an adult. This is largely because the majority of vaccinations you receive during your lifetime occur when you are under 18 years of age. However, there are still plenty of important vaccinations you need as an adult. For seniors especially, vaccinations are important, since your immune system is not nearly as strong as it was in your younger years.

Unfortunately, your weakened immune system also decreases the effectiveness of vaccines. Even if vaccines are not as strong as they used to be, they are still important for preventing serious diseases. Something else to keep in mind with vaccinations is many of them need to be consistently updated to remain effective.

Flu Vaccination for Seniors

One of the most important vaccinations for seniors is the flu vaccination. You need to get your flu vaccination every year. According to a 2017 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 30 percent of seniors 65 years of age or older skipped their flu vaccination. For seniors, the flu can be devastating. In 2017, the CDC reported seniors represented 85 percent of flu-related deaths.

Something seniors may not be aware of, even if they do normally get a flu vaccine, is the Fluzone High-Dose vaccine. The Fluzone High-Dose vaccine is a special vaccine primarily intended for seniors. This version of the flu vaccine contains nearly four times the amount of antigen used in a traditional flu vaccine. The Fluzone High-Dose vaccine greatly improves your odds of avoiding the flu. Using a higher dose vaccine will counteract the fact vaccines are not as effective due to age.

Another advanced vaccine to consider is Fluad. Fluad is not quite as powerful as the Fluzone High-Dose vaccine. However, it has been shown to elicit a stronger immune system response, making it a good choice if your body has not responded well to vaccinations in the past. A similar vaccine approved in 2017 is Flublock Quadrivalent, which has proven to be more effective among seniors.

The best time to get your flu vaccination is early fall. Most years, flu season begins at the end of October. On average, it takes two weeks for the flu vaccination to create an immunity. However, the flu vaccination can take longer in seniors, so it never hurts to receive your vaccination earlier. Flu season typically lasts until February, but in some years, it can last up to April. Each year, you are strongly encouraged to get the flu vaccine, even if you miss the ideal early fall window.

Pneumococcal Vaccine

Most adults and seniors are not aware of the pneumococcal vaccine, since it is not a vaccine you receive as a child. The pneumococcal vaccine is primarily meant to prevent pneumonia, but it also helps with a few related illnesses caused by pneumococcal bacteria. Because seniors are at higher risk of developing pneumonia, it is an especially important vaccine for the elderly.

As of writing, there are two separate vaccines for pneumococcal diseases. These include Prevnar 13 (PCV13) and Pneumovax 23 (PPSV23). The CDC recommends you get both of these vaccines when you turn 65 years of age. However, you should wait a year between receiving the vaccines, starting with PCV13. If you have any of the following conditions, speak with your doctor first, as you may need a pneumococcal vaccine more frequently than other seniors:

  • Asthma
  • Chronic lung issues
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney or liver disease
  • Wear a cochlear implant

Shingles Vaccination

The shingles vaccination is another vaccination commonly overlooked by seniors. Many adults believe a shingles vaccination is unnecessary because of vaccinations they received as a child. While you do receive a shingles vaccination as a child, it will not last for the rest of your life. Shingles occurs when the chickenpox virus reactivates later in your life. The chickenpox virus is always present in your body, even if it is dormant for most of your life. Shingles causes very painful, blistering rashes that can last for upwards of two to four weeks. In some severe cases, shingles can even cause long lasting nerve pain, known as postherpetic neuralgia.

As of writing, there are two different shingles vaccinations available. The first vaccination is Zostavax, which is recommended for seniors 60 years of age and over. Zostavax reduces the chance of getting shingles in the first place. If you do end up getting shingles, Zostavax is still important, since it greatly decreases the chances of getting postherpetic neuralgia. Unfortunately, the vaccination is known to be less effective for older individuals. Even if it is not as effective, it is still better than having no protection against shingles at all.

One of the most recent shingle vaccinations available as of writing is Shingrix. Preliminary reports indicate Shingrix is more effective than Zostavax. It is expected to last up to four years after you are vaccinated. Availability for Shingrix is expected to be limited since it is still a very new vaccine, especially compared to Zostavax. If you are interested in Shingrix, speak with your doctor to see whether limited availability will be an issue.

Tdap Vaccine and Booster

The Tdap vaccine prevents several different ailments. Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis are all covered by the Tdap vaccine. All of these ailments are initially covered by the DTaP vaccine you receive as a child. The Tdap vaccine largely acts as a booster for the DTaP vaccine you initially received. However, if you never received the DTaP vaccine you should still get the Tdap vaccine. You only need to get the Tdap once as a senior, but you should get a Tdap booster every 10 years.

The Tdap vaccine is very important if you spend any amount of time around an infant. Pertussis, also known as the whooping cough, is very contagious. For young children, it can even be life threatening. Young children do not have a strong enough immune system to reliably counteract pertussis. In addition, children have to receive multiple DTaP vaccines before developing an immunity.

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