Essential Vaccination Information for Older Adults
Tools and Tips
Some factors that affect your health are outside of your control. However, many important risk factors are within your power to change. This includes getting shots, called vaccinations, that help protect you from certain illnesses. Vaccines are some of the safest therapies around. Although all therapies, including vaccines, pose the rare chance of serious side effects, for most people, the risks from the diseases are far greater than the risks from the vaccines. Contact your health care provider or local health department for a list of doctors who give these shots. Your city or county health department or local hospital may operate clinics that provide these vaccines. The American Geriatrics Society Health in Aging Foundation recommends the following vaccinations for most older adults.
What it does: Protects against annual influenza viruses.
Who needs it: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the flu shot for everyone six months of age and older. While everyone should get a flu vaccine, the CDC notes that it is especially important for the following people to get flu shots because they are at high risk for having serious flurelated complications: anyone who is 65 years of age or older; nursing home residents; and people with serious health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, lung disease or HIV. Caregivers for older adults should also get vaccinated to avoid spreading the flu.
Who should NOT get it: People who are allergic to eggs, have had allergic reactions to flu shots in the past, or have been diagnosed with Guillian-Barre Syndrome.
When to get it: Because new strains of the flu develop constantly, the flu vaccine must be given yearly. You should get your flu shot as soon as it becomes available in your community, usually in the late summer or early fall.
What it does: Protects against pneumococcal bacteria, which can cause pneumonia and blood and brain infections.
Who needs it: Anyone 65 years or older.
When to get it: Ask your healthcare provider. Two different types of pneumococcal vaccine are recommended now. They are called pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV)13 and pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV)23.
What it does: Protects against two potentially deadly bacterial infections. A second, and different, form of the vaccine (called "Tdap") protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough).
Who needs it: Everyone. It is now recommended to get a one-time dose of the “Tdap” version if you are 65 or older to be protected from whooping cough.
When to get it: Once every 10 years.
Shingles (Herpes Zoster) Shot
What it does: A new herpes zoster subunit (HZ/su) vaccine, also known as Zoster Vaccine Recombinant, Adjuvanted, protects against the development of shingles (outbreaks of sometimes intensely painful rashes or blisters on the skin). It reduces the risk by 97% in persons 50 years of age and older, and about 90% in persons 70 years of age and older. It protects against the development of chronic pain from shingles (also called postherpetic neuralgia), reducing the risk by 85% in persons 70 years of age and older.
Who needs it: The FDA and CDC recommend this vaccine for adults 50 years of age and older.
Who should NOT get it: People who have a history of a severe allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine.
When to get it: Ask your healthcare provider. The CDC recommends that the herpes zoster subunit vaccine is preferred over the live zoster vaccine for the prevention of shingles. The CDC also recommends the subunit vaccine for persons who were previously vaccinated with the live vaccine. The subunit vaccine requires two doses with the second dose administered anytime between 2 - 6 months after the first dose.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends additional shots for older adults who run an increased risk of these diseases because they have certain health problems, occupations, or lifestyles. These include the Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccination, and shots for Varicella, Hepatitis A and B, and Meningococcal disease. Ask your healthcare provider if you should get any of these additional shots.
DISCLAIMER: This information is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of medical advice or care you receive from your physician or other healthcare provider. Always consult your healthcare provider about your medications, symptoms, and health problems. For additional information, visit the CDC website at www.cdc.gov.
Last Updated November 2017