With winter approaching, it’s time to prepare for what could be a challenging season when it comes to staying healthy.
Of course, there is a new COVID-19 vaccine, to help protect against the ever-changing coronavirus, and it’s one that most people can get for free. But there are other vaccines you should consider, particularly if you are 50 or older.
The aging process weakens our immune systems, putting us at greater risk for several types of disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For this reason, the CDC recommends adults 50 or older schedule the following vaccines. Just talk to your doctor before getting any vaccine, as there are some exceptions to CDC recommendations.
The CDC recommends that all adults get a flu shot, but this is particularly important for older adults and those with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, asthma and heart disease. These people have a greater risk of developing serious complications if they catch influenza.
For older adults, the particular type of vaccine is important, as we explain in “3 Flu Shots Recommended for Seniors.”
While the flu might seem like a minor nuisance, it can be deadly. As the CDC reminds us:
“Every year in the United States, millions of people are sickened, hundreds of thousands are hospitalized and thousands or tens of thousands of people die from the flu.”
September and October are the best time of year for these vaccines.
Around 1 in 3 Americans will develop shingles at some point, and the risk of getting the painful rash grows with age, according to the CDC.
This painful condition can cause symptoms that last months or years. It can even cause permanent blindness, as we reported a few years ago in “This Cause of Blindness Is Soaring Among Seniors.”
A newer vaccine, called Shingrix, is more than 90% effective in preventing shingles in older people, according to the CDC. Call your health care provider now to set up an appointment for the two-dose vaccine. Or, use the Shingrix locator tool from GSK, the vaccine’s manufacturer.
Tdap or Td vaccine
The Tdap vaccine protects you against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Chances are good that you have had this vaccine in the past. But if you haven’t, the CDC urges you to get it.
The Td vaccine only protects against tetanus and diphtheria, and requires a booster every 10 years.
There are multiple types of pneumococcal vaccines available in the U.S.:
- Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23), which protects against serious pneumococcal disease, including meningitis and bloodstream infections
- Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13, PCV15 and PCV20), which protects against serious pneumococcal disease and pneumonia
The CDC recommends PPSV23 for:
- All adults 65 years or older
- Adults younger than 65 years who have certain health conditions
It recommends PCV13, PCV15, or PCV20 for all adults with any of the following:
- A condition that weakens the immune system
- A cerebrospinal fluid leak
- A cochlear implant
The CDC also says adults 65 years or older who have never received a PCV13 vaccine and don’t have any of the three conditions mentioned above can discuss and decide with their health care provider whether to get PCV13.
In 2023, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved two new vaccines against respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. The CDC says some adults over age 60 may need this type of vaccine, and you should talk to your health care provider about it. The CDC says:
“If you’re 60 or older, your health care provider might recommend RSV vaccination for you, especially if you have a weakened immune system from illness (e.g., leukemia or HIV infection) or from medications (e.g., treatment for cancer or organ transplant), if you have chronic medical conditions such as heart or lung disease, or if you live in a nursing home.”
A single dose of this vaccine provides protection for two winters or longer, and there is no maximum age for vaccination.