Get your flu shot every year at the end of October, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends. However, your body needs at least two weeks to build up the antibodies it needs to fight viruses after the shot. If you’re going to the doctor’s office or a retail clinic for your annual shot, you might as well ask whether all other shots are up-to-date for the adult age group.
Yes, even older adults need a poke to protect against potentially deadly diseases. And combining a vaccine against pneumonia with a flu shot, for instance, may prevent serious respiratory complications at a time when the body is weaker than usual. Your doctor will have the most up-to-date information about pneumonia vaccines. (You may have heard that the government was changing the recommendations for pneumonia vaccines; this hasn’t happened yet.)
The majority of adults have immunity to chicken pox, Katz notes, because of childhood exposure. If you are in the rare minority of having never had chicken pox as an adult, ask your doctor about getting the chicken pox vaccine as a shot. Katz says that almost everyone over 40 has experienced chicken pox at least once.
Those who deserve it: All adults, regardless of their age.
How often: Once a year. According to Katz, the virus changes every year, making it hard to predict the strain that will be most common that season. Researchers can formulate vaccines accordingly with the help of that information.
Seasonal influenza typically runs from October to March. Since it takes about two weeks for antibodies to develop after a flu vaccination, the CDC recommends rolling up your sleeves by October 30.
It’s important because: Studies show that vaccination can reduce the risk of illness by up to 40%. Seniors are most vulnerable to flu complications, which can lead to hospitalization and death.
Your doctor should be consulted if: There are known risks involved with the flu shot, including having (or having) Guillain-Barre syndrome, egg allergies, having a fever.
Vaccine against pneumococcal disease
Who deserves it: Healthy adults over 65, or adults who smoke, or who have conditions such as chronic lung disease, leukemia or lymphoma; or who drink alcohol?
How often: In the United States, all healthy adults over 65 should receive two doses of pneumococcal vaccines. Don’t administer both at the same time. Get a dose of the PCV13 then one of the polysaccharide vaccines one year later. Risk factors above suggest supplementing PCV13 and PPSV23 two doses before age 65.
Why you need it: Approximately 28,000 cases of invasive pneumococcal disease and 2,900 deaths were reported in 2014 from this disease. Pneumococcal disease kills more people each year than all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined. It has been estimated that PCV13 prevented over 30,000 cases of pneumococcal disease and 3,000 deaths in its first three years of use. Older adults and young children have the highest incidence of serious illness, and older adults are more likely to die from it.
Parting shot: People who work in hospitals or nursing homes with chronically ill patients should get the vaccine, even if they’re healthy.
Tdap or Td are good choices for tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis vaccination.
Who deserves it: With the Tdap vaccine released in 2005, along with preventing tetanus and diphtheria, like its predecessor, it also protected against pertussis, known as whooping cough. This vaccine should be administered if you do not recall ever getting it before. It also counts toward your Td booster every ten years, says Katz. (It’s the one where you don’t know if your shot is still current after you step on a rusty nail during vacation.)
How often: In order to remain protected against tetanus and diphtheria, you need to receive a Td booster every ten years. Otherwise, you may lose protection.
Why you need it: Even if you’re over 65, you should get vaccinated against whooping cough due to the increasing number of cases in the U.S. Tdap prevents whooping cough in about 7 out of 10 people within the first year after getting vaccinated.
Talk to your doctor if you: The vaccine was not recommended for persons with epilepsy or other nervous system disorders, who have sustained severe swelling or pain from a prior dose of the vaccine, or who have (or have had) Guillain-Barre syndrome.
Parting shot: These vaccines are critical for caregivers and those who are in close proximity to infants younger than 12 months of age – such as relatives, parents, and day care providers.
Shingles (herpes zoster) vaccine
Who needs it: Shingrix, the new shingles vaccine recommended by the CDC, is recommended for everyone 50 and older, even if they opted for the older, Zostavax, which was less effective, and even if they’ve had shingles in the past.
How often: To prevent both shingles and complications, the CDC recommends getting this vaccine in two doses, spaced about six months apart. It is unclear if the agency will recommend getting it again, say after five years, once it starts to lose its effectiveness.
Why you need it: Most people get shingles after the age of 50. The risk increases with age; by the age of 85, half of all adults will have experienced at least one outbreak. The varicella zoster virus is the same as that which causes chicken pox. It takes years for chicken pox to disappear in the body, but the virus can reappear when the immune system weakens because of stress, medication, or disease. Approximately 15 percent of all patients suffer from post herpetic neuralgia (PHN), a condition marked by extreme nerve pain that can last for months or years. Those in their 60s and 70s are protected by Shingrix 97%, and those in their 80s and 90s 91%.
Talk to your physician if you: There are a few other reasons why you should not get the vaccine: you’re not feeling well, you have shingles, and you have left-over infectious disease. Thank you!