Many of us have or are helping our children’s grandparents schedule their COVID-19 shots. While we’re at it, don’t forget to check in to make sure Pop-Pop and Grams are up to date on other vaccines that help keep older adults healthy through their golden years.
As we age, our immune systems weaken. Some vaccines received in childhood also lose efficacy. These leave a person, especially one with other health conditions, less able to fend off infections as well as when they were younger and stronger. Bottom line: Seniors and even those of us parents over age 50 are more venerable to contracting and developing complications from diseases.
Older adults should start with a visit to their doctor to discuss the matter. A look at the U.S. Health and Human Services Department web pages dedicated to adult vaccines might give you an idea of what you may be lacking going in.
The following vaccines are commonly recommended for most older adults:
Influenza. Seasonal flu may seem like nothing in the age of COVID-19. While mask wearing and social distancing may have knocked it down this past winter, it is still something not to be forgotten when life returns to a more normal states. Seniors are especially vulnerable to the flu, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control noting people age 65 and older annually account for over 60 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations. A special high dose vaccine is available (and only recommended) for adults older than age 65.
Shingles (Herpes Zoster): Shingles presents as a painful, blistering skin rash. It can also cause postherpetic neuralgia — a condition causes burning pain long after the rash and blisters of shingles disappear, fever, hearing loss and vision problems. A third of all people in the United States will contract shingles at some point in their lives, according to the CDC, and having it once doesn’t protect you from a repeat. As shingles is most common and severe among seniors and people with compromised immune systems, this vaccine is highly recommended for people over age 50.
Td (tetanus/diphtheria) or Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis): Most people received these shots as children. But did you know it is recommended that everyone, regardless of their age, get a booster shot at least every 10 years? Tetanus, a bacterial infection you might now better as “lockjaw,” is so deadly that even people who have already been vaccinated are recommended to get a tetanus booster after a severe cut, puncture wound or burn.
Pneumonia: Pneumococcus bacteria can cause meningitis, severe pneumonia and various blood infections. Health care centers and hospitals tend to be hotbeds of these strains, leaving seniors who visit them most venerable. The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23), recommended for those age 65 and older, protects against the most common strains of the bacteria. The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) may also be recommended to people with weakened immune systems and certain other conditions.
Other vaccines may also be recommended for older adults with certain medical conditions. These include shots against chickenpox, Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B