Several preventable diseases cause illness and even death in seniors who remain unvaccinated. Many people over 65 worry about side effects from the vaccine, but they’re are at higher risk of complications from the diseases themselves.
If you’re an older adult, there are several reasons to ask your doctor about immunization:
- Seniors are more susceptible to serious and even life-threatening complications of infections.
- You may not have been vaccinated as a child.
- New vaccinations are now available.
- Your immunity may have faded over time.
Key Immunizations for Seniors
The most important vaccinations to discuss with your doctor include the flu vaccine, pneumococcal vaccine to prevent pneumonia, zoster vaccine to prevent shingles, and a tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis vaccine (Tdap).
An annual flu vaccination is recommended for most people 65 or older, as well as anyone with high-risk conditions. The components are updated every year to make sure it is as effective as possible against the current virus. The vaccine can usually be provided in your doctor’s office. It’s commonly available September through April each year, depending on supplies.
Talk to your doctor before getting the flu shot if you’re allergic to eggs, latex, have had a severe reaction to a previous flu vaccine, or have Guillain-Barre syndrome. If you have a fever, wait to be vaccinated until the illness subsides.
Pneumonia causes significant illness in seniors and is reported to be responsible for 60,000 deaths each year. Seniors and others at high risk should receive the pneumococcal (pneumonia) vaccine as a one-time vaccination. In patients older than 65 who have previously been vaccinated, a one-time repeat vaccination can be given five years after the original shot.
Shingles is a painful and contagious blistering rash. The zoster vaccine may decrease your risk of getting shingles by about 50 percent, and minimize its severity if you do get it. The vaccine is recommended for those aged 60 and above. People with certain conditions should not receive the zoster vaccine, so be sure to discuss it with your doctor.
The Tdap vaccine is recommended for patients under 65. It contains the same components as the tetanus-diphtheria vaccine but adds a pertussis component. Pertussis, or whooping cough, has become increasingly common in seniors, possibly due to fading immunity. Patients 65 or older are generally advised to get the tetanus-diphtheria vaccine without the pertussis component.