Livanta logo

CDC Advises Seniors to get Vaccines and Immunizations

As summer slowly fades away, it’s never too early to start thinking about the fall and the dreaded winter months – prime time for colds, the flu, and other seasonal maladies.

The Centers for Disease Control is once again advising Americans – particularly senior citizens – that vaccines and immunizations should be on pretty much everyone’s “to do” list in the coming weeks.

How important are vaccines? According to the CDC, about 45,000 adults die each year from illnesses that likely could have been prevented by a vaccination.

Far too many individuals believe vaccines are only for infants and children. Others believe vaccines are only necessary if they’re related to lifestyle, travel, or health conditions.

Nothing could be further from the truth. To maintain top health, the CDC and Medicare strongly encourage individuals to stay on top of regular vaccine intervals, be it every year or at regularly prescribed time frames, to prevent, stave off, or prevent the spread of diseases.

It’s all about maintaining a healthy general public, and it doesn’t matter if you’re 8 or 80, vaccines are good medicine – no pun intended.

Medicare Part B covers several vaccines against the flu and pneumococcal disease, tetanus and rabies vaccines, and for some patients, Hepatitis B, at little or no cost.

Medicare Part D plans typically cover more vaccines than Medicare Part B, but recipients may have additional out-of-pocket costs for certain vaccines.

Here are the most important vaccines individuals should get (check with your health professional first):

1 Yearly flu vaccine. This is particularly important for older adults. The flu is a contagious respiratory illness that can be life-threatening, particularly for the 86 percent of adults 65 and over who have a chronic condition such as heart disease or diabetes, according to the CDC. What’s more, over 60 percent of flu-related hospitalizations occur in people 65 years and older, with a death rate of 116 per 100,000. The older we get, the more our immune systems weaken over time, leaving us more susceptible to and at higher risk for certain diseases. Seniors are at greater risk of flu complications like pneumonia and bronchitis than individuals in any other age group. In addition, certain strains of the flu such as the recent outbreak of the H3N2 virus cause the most complications in older adults.
2 Tdap vaccine. The CDC also recommends every adult, regardless of age, get the Tdap vaccine at least once in their life to protect against pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus, and diphtheria. If you’ve already received the Tdap vaccine in your life, then make sure you get a TD booster shot every 10 years to keep the vaccine active in your system.
3 Shingles vaccine. Shingles (also known as Herpes Zoster) cause an extremely painful, blistering skin rash anywhere on the body and a resulting neuropathy that can take months to heal. The risk of shingles increases with age. Also, once an individual has chicken pox, typically in his/her youth, the virus lives on in nerve endings and can be reactivated, most commonly after 60 years old. Nearly 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. will develop shingles in their lifetime, and the chance increases exponentially as individuals grow older.
4 Pneumococcal vaccines. Particularly for those 65 and older, this vaccine helps prevent or treat pneumococcal disease such as infections in the lungs (particularly pneumonia) and bloodstream, as well as meningitis and bloodstream infections. The CDC estimates more than 18,000 adults 65 and over die each year from pneumococcal disease, while additional thousands suffer brain damage, deafness, and loss of limbs. Most adults only need pneumococcal vaccines once in their lives (which actually means two injections one year apart). However, those with more pronounced health issues may require a booster shot every five years or to keep disease at bay.

Other vaccines seniors should concern themselves with include:

  • MMR vaccine: protects against mumps, rubella, and measles. The CDC recommends that individuals born after 1956 receive the vaccine, which only needs to be administered once in a lifetime.

  • Hepatitis A and B. Seniors are susceptible to liver inflammation. That’s why some doctors recommend patients be inoculated with vaccines to treat both Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B. It typically means three or four injections over about six months.

When is the best time to get vaccinated? It is important to do so early, before flu season begins, since it takes about two weeks to build up enough protective antibodies.