Many adults think that if they got their vaccines as children, they never have to worry about them again. But that isn’t always true, and the misconception can be dangerous.
It’s common knowledge that children entering grade school are required to have certain vaccinations. This is because their immune systems are more delicate and susceptible to viruses. The same is true for senior citizens as their immune systems become more vulnerable with age.
Why Do Most Seniors Need Vaccines?
Several factors can cause older adults to need vaccines. Some of the newer vaccines were not available when some seniors were children. Our immunity to certain diseases can also fade over time, meaning that seniors may need to be re-vaccinated to stay protected. And as we age, we can become more vulnerable to certain diseases, such as the flu. Luckily, there is no age limit on visiting the doctor for protective vaccines. (Though if you want a lollipop afterwards, you may have to ask!)
Which Vaccines Do Seniors Need?
Certain vaccines are especially important for older adults. Your vaccination schedule will depend on your personal health and history, so make sure to talk to your doctor to determine which vaccines are best for you.
- Influenza vaccine: Between five and 20 percent of people get the flu every year. Everyone is familiar with flu symptoms: a cough, runny nose, sore throat, and achy body. Although a nuisance to most people, older adults and seniors are at higher risk of developing life-threatening conditions from influenza. It’s true that a flu vaccine won’t always protect you, but getting one significantly reduces your risk. Starting at age 50, you should get a flu vaccine every year. The best time to get vaccinated is before flu season starts, usually in October and November.
- Shingles vaccine: Shingles, or herpes zoster, is a painful skin condition that can cause serious complications or even death. Older adults are most susceptible to shingles, and the Centers for Disease Control recommends that everyone over the age of 60 get a shingles vaccine.
- Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis booster: Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (or whooping cough) can all be dangerous. Whooping cough in adults should be taken seriously as symptoms can turn into serious complications in seniors and elderly. Older adults are also especially vulnerable to serious complications from tetanus since the immunity you get from the Td/Tdap vaccine wears off over time. The CDC recommends that you get this vaccine once every 10 years so make sure to check your immunization records to stay up to date!
- Pneumococcal vaccine: Pneumococcus is the bacteria that causes pneumonia, a serious threat to older adults. An infection of the pneumococcus bacteria is the leading cause of death among diseases that are preventable by vaccine. Pneumonia symptoms, such as fluid in the lungs, can lead to serious life threatening conditions in seniors. The CDC recommends that everyone age 65 and over receive a pneumococcal vaccine.
We’d all love to think that vaccinations end with childhood, but the truth is that it’s extremely important for older adults and seniors to get vaccinated. Are you unsure which vaccines are right for someone of your age? Use this Adult Immunization Schedule from the CDC to figure out if it’s time to call your doctor.
For more information, please review our Immunization & Vaccination Resources.