Every year, thousands of older adults get sick with illnesses that could have been prevented by vaccines. And people over age 65 are 100 times more likely to die from these preventable diseases than children are.
These are the four vaccines that are most commonly recommended for older adults.
Flu: Required yearly, as flu viruses change. Flu season peaks in February and lasts until May. It’s best to get the flu shot in the fall for the most protection. There are many types of flu vaccines, including one called Fluzone High-Dose. It was created specifically for adults over age 65. Annual flu shots are covered by Medicare Part B.
Pneumonia: Recommended for people with chronic conditions like asthma, heart disease, and diabetes. Usually just one shot will do it, but if you got the first before you were 65, you might need a second. Covered under Medicare Part B.
Shingles: Shingles is a painful, blistering skin rash related to chicken pox. The one-time vaccine is strongly suggested for everyone age 60 and older. Medicare Part D prescription drug plans cover it, but copay/coinsurance amounts vary.
Tdap (tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis): Tetanus is also known as “lockjaw.” The common name for pertussis is “whooping cough.” Most people get vaccines for these diseases as children. TD (tetanus and diphtheria) booster shots are necessary every ten years. Covered under most Medicare Part D plans.
A doctor’s advice is essential to making the right vaccine choices. People with some diseases should avoid certain vaccinations. People with other diseases may require additional doses for a vaccine to take effect.