November 20, 2018 — Flu season is upon us. That means lots of people…and their germs – are traveling. So that makes it a good time for us to consider all the vaccinations that are recommended for those of us of a certain age. As we get older, our immune systems tend to weaken, putting us at higher risk for certain diseases. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) believes that you should get all recommended vaccines, not only to keep yourself healthy, but those around you as well. All information in this article is from the CDC.
All adults need a seasonal flu (influenza) vaccine every year. Flu vaccine is especially important for people with chronic health conditions, pregnant women, and older adults. Over 60 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations occur in people 65 years and older.
Types of Flu Shots for People 65 and Older
People 65 years and older should get a flu shot and not a nasal spray vaccine. They can get any flu vaccine approved for use in that age group with no preference for any one vaccine over another. There are regular flu shots that are approved for use in people 65 and older and there also are two vaccines designed specifically for people 65 and older:
High Dose Flu Vaccine
The “high dose vaccine” contains 4 times the amount of antigen as a regular flu shot. It is associated with a stronger immune response following vaccination (higher antibody production). Results from a clinical trial of more than 30,000 participants showed that adults 65 years and older who received the high dose vaccine had 24% fewer influenza infections as compared to those who received the standard dose flu vaccine. The high dose vaccine has been approved for use in the United States since 2009.
Adjuvanted Flu Vaccine
The adjuvanted flu vaccine, Fluad, is made with MF59 adjuvant, an additive that creates a stronger immune response to vaccination. In a Canadian observational study of 282 people aged 65 years and older conducted during the 2011-12 season, Fluad was 63% more effective than regular-dose unadjuvanted flu shots. There are no randomized studies comparing Fluad with Fluzone High-Dose. This vaccine was available for the first time in the United States during the 2016-2017 season. You can learn more about flu vaccines at the CDC links below.
Every adult should get the Tdap vaccine once if they did not receive it as an adolescent to protect against pertussis (whooping cough), and then a Td (tetanus, diphtheria) booster shot every 10 years. In addition, women should get the Tdap vaccine each time they are pregnant, preferably at 27 through 36 weeks.
Almost 1 out of every 3 people in the United States will develop shingles in their lifetime. Your risk of shingles increases as you grow older.
Shingles vaccine, which protects against shingles and the complications from the disease, is recommended for healthy adults 50 years and older.
Shingles is a painful rash that usually develops on one side of the body, often the face or torso. The rash consists of blisters that typically scab over in 7 to 10 days and clears up within 2 to 4 weeks. Some people describe the pain as an intense burning sensation. For some people, the pain can last for months or even years after the rash goes away. This long-lasting pain is called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), and it is the most common complication of shingles. Your risk of getting shingles and PHN increases as you get older.
A new shingles vaccine called Shingrix (recombinant zoster vaccine) was licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2017. CDC recommends that healthy adults 50 years and older get two doses of Shingrix, 2 to 6 months apart. Shingrix provides strong protection against shingles and PHN. Shingrix is the preferred vaccine, over Zostavax® (zoster vaccine live), a shingles vaccine in use since 2006. It is generally recommended that even if you had the older shingles vaccine you should be re-vaccinated with the new Shingrix vaccine, because it is so much more effective.
Pneumococcal vaccines, which protect against pneumococcal disease, including infections in the lungs and bloodstream are recommended for all adults over 65 years old, and for adults younger than 65 years who have certain chronic health conditions.
Talk with your doctor or other healthcare professional to find out which vaccines are recommended for you at your next medical appointment.
Comments? Have you had all the vaccines that are recommended? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.