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Important Immunizations for Older Adults

Immunizations are not just for the young. In fact, you could argue that they are every bit as important for older adults as they are for infants and young children. Thousands of seniors suffer needlessly every year from illnesses that could have been prevented by vaccines—and those over age 65 are 100 times more likely to die from these preventable diseases than children are.

At your loved one’s next medical appointment, be sure to review the most commonly recommended vaccines to see which (in addition to the flu shot) your family member might need. (And ask which you might need, to prevent exposing your loved one to illness.)

Pneumococcal (pneumonia)

Usually just one shot will do it, although a second might be needed if the first was administered before the patient was 65. Protects against pneumonia, infections of the blood stream, and some forms of bacterial meningitis. It’s also recommended for people with such chronic conditions as asthma, heart disease, and diabetes. Covered under Medicare Part B.

Herpes Zoster (shingles)

Shingles is a painful, blistering skin rash that happens when a dormant chicken pox virus becomes active again later in life. The one-time vaccine is strongly suggested for everyone age 60 and older. Medicare Part D prescription drug plans cover it, but check your plan, as copay/coinsurance amounts vary.

Tdap (tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis)

Most people are first immunized against these diseases as children, but in order to stay protected TD (tetanus and diphtheria) booster shots are necessary every ten years. Tetanus is also sometimes known as “lockjaw” and the common name for pertussis is “whooping cough.” Covered under most Medicare Part D plans.

A doctor’s advice is, of course, essential to making the right vaccine choices: Some vaccines are not recommended for those with certain chronic diseases; other illnesses may require additional doses. Immunizations that your loved one’s physician might also suggest include MMR (measles-mumps-rubella), hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and meningitis. To help you do your research, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also has some handy tools, including a vaccine quiz and an Adult Immunization Scheduler that offers personalized recommendations. Staying informed and up to date will help ensure the good health of your loved one.

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