Vaccines aren’t just for kids. There are preventable diseases that cause illness and death in adults, often praying on unvaccinated seniors with weakened immune systems. In fact, about 45,000 seniors die from complications caused by preventable diseases each year.
While many people choose not to get vaccines out of fear of side effects, seniors are more at risk from the actual diseases than of any side effect that could be caused by a vaccine. Thus, keeping your vaccines current is the best way to ensure you stay healthy.
Also, it’s a common misconception to assume that vaccinations received when you were younger are still potent. That is, unfortunately, not the case. Immunity fades, and vaccinations are updated. So, get in touch with your doctor to find out what vaccinations you need.
With that said, here are the five most important vaccines that you need to discuss with your doctor. These could save your life. If you’re a caregiver and want to ensure that your loved one is up-to-date on these and other important vaccines, you’ll want to have a caregiver affidavit or other legal document in place which will allow you to make health-related decisions for your loved one.
5 Must-Have Vaccines for Seniors
While young people tend to have a rather easy time fighting off the flu on their own, the influenza virus is extremely dangerous to seniors. In fact, the flu is quite deadly in the senior population. Over 60 percent of flu-related hospitalizations (and 80 percent of flu-related deaths) occur in seniors over 65.
It’s recommended to get the flu vaccine annually. Immunity is temporary, and there are always new strains of the virus going around each year, so it’s important not to skip a year. It’s the only way to ensure you’re protected against the most recent strain of the virus. There’s also a specific injection for seniors that doesn’t expose them to the live virus as other vaccines do.
If you’re allergic to latex, eggs, or have had an adverse reaction to the vaccine in the past, speak to your doctor beforehand.
Tetanus-Diphtheria-Pertussis (Tdap) Vaccine
If you’re below the age of 65, you may only need to get the tetanus-diphtheria vaccine (without the pertussis component). However, seniors over 65 are getting pertussis more and more (which is whooping cough) due to their weakened immune systems. This is why it’s recommended for seniors to get the Tdap vaccine, as it will protect you against pertussis as well.
These are given together in one shot. Everyone should receive their booster of tetanus-diphtheria or the Tdap vaccine at least every ten years to ensure you’re protected.
Pneumonia is a serious concern for seniors. It’s quite significant and causes around 60,000 deaths every year. Anyone who is at risk of suffering from pneumonia, especially seniors, should receive the vaccine. It’s a one-time thing that doesn’t need to be renewed.
If you were younger than 65 when you received your vaccine and you’re now around five years older, you can get a one-time booster to ensure you’re protected. This is more so for those who got the vaccine when they were significantly younger.
The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV) combats the 23 most common strains of bacteria that can give a person pneumonia.
Herpes Zoster (Shingles) Vaccine
It’s estimated that one million Americans contract shingles every year. Half of that number is thought to be seniors. If you’ve already experienced shingles in the past, it’s still okay for you to get the vaccine as it will prevent future occurrences.
The Zoster vaccine is capable of decreasing your risk of contracting shingles by 50 percent. And if you do get it, it will be substantially less severe than it otherwise would be.
If you’re a senior, make sure to discuss the vaccine with your doctor. There are some complications for those with certain conditions, so make sure a doctor gives you the go ahead first.
The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps, and rubella. If you were born before 1956, it’s recommended that you seek out the vaccine. The vaccine was made available in 1963, so it’s likely that if you were born after that year, you already have it. It’s a one-time vaccine.
Doctors can check your immunity levels to determine whether you need to get the vaccine.
How to Pay for Vaccines
According to the CDC, all private insurance plans must cover certain vaccines without charging a copayment or coinsurance. This includes the five vaccines above in addition to vaccines for hepatitis A/B, meningococcal, varicella, and human papillomavirus.
Of the five vaccines listed here, the influenza and pneumococcal vaccines are covered under Medicare Part B. Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage Plan Part C may cover the herpes zoster vaccine, the MMR vaccine, and the Tdap vaccine.
Medicaid coverage varies based on state, so check your state Medicaid agency. If you’re on Medicare and are unsure about coverage, contact your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program.