Important Vaccines for Seniors

Important Vaccines for Seniors

Your immune system helps protect your body from foreign and potentially harmful threats. Bacteria, viruses, toxins, and cancer cells are all toxic substances that infect you. Your Immune system produces cells and antibodies that destroy these harmful substances. But your immune system has to be strong. When your immune system weakens, you are more likely to get sick.

Aging affects our immune systems; the immune systems aren’t as strong as they once were. Your immune system responds more slowly to stimulus, which increases your risk of getting sick. Vaccines can help drastically to prevent illnesses as we age.

The Flu

As we all know, the flu is highly contagious. It can even be life-threatening for seniors. Even if you are healthy, get a flu shot.  You are at a higher risk of getting the flu, and because your immune system is already weak, it will be harder to fight off the disease. Many seniors are already battling diabetes or heart disease- getting the flu on top of these ailments can be dangerous. You should get the flu shot annually. It is best to get it before flu season as a preventative measure. Flu season is from October to May, with peaks during December to February. You can get the flu shot with your physician or at your neighborhood Walgreens. Medicare Part B covers the flu vaccine.


The same virus that causes chickenpox is also responsible for shingles. It manifests as a painful skin rash and is contagious. Around one in three adults contracts shingles, likely due to a weakened immune system. The shingles vaccine is a one-time vaccination. Physicians recommend adults over 60 get the vaccine, but ask your doctor to find what is best for you. All Medicare Part D drug plans or Medicare Advantage with prescription coverage offer the shingles vaccine. Depending on your plan, there can be out-of-pocket costs.

Pneumococcal Diseases

Pneumococcal diseases cause severe infections throughout the bloodstream and possibly in vital organs. Pneumonia, meningitis, and bacteremia are all pneumococcal diseases. Pneumonia affects the lungs, meningitis is the infection of the brain and spinal cord’s lining, and bacteremia is an infection of the bloodstream. These diseases can get very serious, especially for older adults.  These diseases kill about 18,000 adults over the age of 65 each year. The vaccine comes in two shots, administered about a year apart. You can get them at your doctor’s office, local clinic, or pharmacy. This vaccine is a cost-free benefit under Medicare Part B.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a contagious virus that affects the liver. Acute Hepatitis B lasts a few weeks and mimics symptoms of the flu. Chronic hepatitis b is a long-term illness that often does not present any symptoms and can cause liver damage. The liver changes as you age, and your risk for hepatitis b rises. You can get the vaccine in three to four injections over six months. If your doctor determines you are at a high risk of contracting hep B, then Medicare Part B covers the total cost of the hep B vaccine.

All of these illnesses are preventable. Don’t wait until you have one to get vaccinated! Talk to your doctor and see what you should vaccinated for at your next appointment.

Should I not get vaccines?

The CDC recommends that people with allergies or who suffer severe allergic reactions to initial doses of these vaccines should not continue receiving them. The government agency also advises that those who are severely ill also avoid taking vaccines.

If a previous dose of the influenza (inactivated) vaccine gave you an allergic reaction, the CDC suggests you should not take further injections. They also do not recommend it for those who have Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS).

The CDC has a lengthy list of reasons you should not receive the influenza (live) vaccine. They do not recommend this vaccine for:

  • those younger than 2 years or older than 49 years of age.
  • pregnant women.
  • those who have had an allergic reaction after a previous dose of influenza vaccine, or have any severe, life-threatening allergies.
  • children or adolescents 2 through 17 years of age who are receiving aspirin or aspirin- or salicylate-containing products.
  • those who have a weakened immune system.
  • children 2 through 4 years old with asthma or a history of wheezing in the past 12 months.
  • those 5 years or older and have asthma.
  • those who have taken influenza antiviral medication in the last 3 weeks.
  • those who care for severely immunocompromised people who require a protected environment.
  • those who have other underlying medical conditions that can put people at higher risk of serious flu complications (such as lung disease, heart disease, kidney diseases like diabetes, kidney or liver disorders, neurologic or neuromuscular or metabolic disorders).
  • those who do not have a spleen or have a non-functioning spleen.
  • those who have a cochlear implant.
  • those who have a cerebrospinal fluid leak (a leak of the fluid that surrounds the brain to the nose, throat, ear, or some other location in the head).
  • those who have or had Guillain-Barré Syndrome within 6 weeks after a previous dose of influenza vaccine.

On their website, the CDC lists more details about who should not take specific vaccines.

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This article was updated  6/4/2024.

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