Vaccines for Seniors: Everything You Need to Know
With COVID-19 vaccinations in the news, vaccines are top of mind for a lot of people. But there are other vaccines for seniors that can help prevent a range of illnesses and disease-related death. Here’s what you need to know about why vaccines are so important for older adults, and which ones you should talk to your doctor about getting.
Why Do Vaccines for Seniors Matter?
As you get older, your immune system tends to weaken, putting you more at risk for certain diseases. If you have health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, COPD or a compromised immune system, your risks are higher for complications and even death.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), thousands of people die each year from vaccine-preventable disease.
Since 2010, annual flu-related hospitalizations in the United States have ranged from 140,000 to 710,000. Flu-related deaths have ranged from 12,000 to 56,000.
About 320,000 people get pneumococcal pneumonia every year, leading to over 150,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths, mostly among the elderly.
700,000 to 1.4 million people suffer from chronic hepatitis B, with complications such as liver cancer.
The economic impact of treating unvaccinated people is also high. According to the Adult Vaccine Access Coalition, the estimated annual costs of treating the four major vaccine-preventable diseases in people age 65 and older is around $15 billion.
Which Vaccines Should Seniors Get?
The CDC recommends those age 65 and older get the following vaccines:
It’s important to get a flu vaccine each year to protect yourself and those around you. It takes about two weeks for antibodies to develop after the vaccination, so the CDC recommends getting one early in the flu season, preferably by the end of October. Getting one too early (in the summer, for example), may reduce its level of protection, particularly among older adults. You may want to ask your doctor about a high-dose flu vaccine, licensed only for those age 65 years and older. It has four times the amount of antigens, which can give you a better immune response.
One million people get shingles each year in the U.S. Some develop complications along with the painful rash, and those complications could last for years. A shingles vaccine is recommended for healthy adults over the age of 50.
Pneumococcal disease is any infection caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria. Pneumococcal infections range from ear and sinus infections to bloodstream infections and pneumonia. There are two recommended vaccines for seniors.
The Polysaccharide Vaccine (PPSV23) protects against serious pneumococcal disease, including meningitis and bloodstream infections (recommended for all adults 65 years or older, and for adults younger than 65 years who have certain health conditions).
Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV13) protects against serious pneumococcal disease and pneumonia (recommended for all adults with a condition that weakens the immune system, cerebrospinal fluid leak, or cochlear implant).
According to the CDC, adults 65 years old or older who have never received a dose of PCV13 and don’t have one of the conditions described above may also discuss vaccination with their vaccine provider to decide if PCV13 is appropriate for them.
Tdap is an acronym for tuberculosis, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough). You need a Tdap vaccination if you’ve never had one before. If you have, it’s important to get a booster every 10 years, because the immunity to whooping cough wanes over time. The booster can improve your immunity and also protect you against tuberculosis and diphtheria.
Whooping cough can be serious for adults, but it’s especially worrisome for babies. So get your vaccine or booster at least two weeks before you come in contact with newborn babies.
Age is a risk factor for contracting COVID-19 and developing complications. It’s why older adults are being prioritized for the vaccines as they roll out. As soon as you can get one, do so. You can learn more about it here.
Vaccines for Seniors with Health Conditions
While the listed vaccines are important for all older adults, the CDC says people with certain health conditions are at even higher risk for vaccine-preventable diseases. If you have any of these conditions, be sure to talk to your health care provider about getting your immunizations up to date as soon as possible.
Diabetes (both Type 1 and Type 2) put you at risk for serious complications from illnesses.
- Hepatitis B (to protect your liver)
Heart disease can make it harder to fight infections and raises your risk of complications.
Lung disease, including asthma, makes it more likely you’ll have complications from the flu. Some other vaccine-preventable diseases can increase the swelling of lungs and airways, which can lead to pneumonia and other serious complications.
Talk to your health care provider about protecting your health with the appropriate vaccinations. Your health matters. It’s why we provide information like this, and why we work every day to help residents of Brandon Wilde live healthy, well-rounded lives. We’ve also begun vaccinating all residents and staff for COVID-19. You can learn more about our health and safety precautions here.