Published on August 01, 2018

Take Your Best Shot

Adult woman getting vaccineMost people think vaccines are just for kids. Yet, they’re actually a vital part of your overall health and wellness far into the Golden Years.

The most common vaccine-preventable diseases that affect adults are the seasonal flu; pneumonia; shingles; and tetanus (lockjaw), diphtheria and whooping cough. Your doctor may recommend others based on risk factors or health conditions.


The majority of the population should get a flu shot each year. As you get older, it becomes even more essential. People 65 and older are at the greatest risk for flu-related complications simply because the immune system weakens with age.

  • Between 71%-85% of seasonal flu-related deaths are in people age 65 and older.
  • Between 54%-70% of all flu-related hospitalizations are in people age 65 and older.


Pneumonia is one example of a flu-related complication that can result in death. In addition to pneumonia, pneumococcal vaccines can protect against meningitis and bloodstream infections.

There are two kinds of pneumococcal vaccines: conjugate and polysaccharide. Your doctor can help you figure out which you need. If you’re age 65 or older or between the ages of 19-64 with certain medical conditions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you get both types. If you’re a smoker between the ages of 19-64, the CDC recommends the polysaccharide vaccine.


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About one in three people will get shingles, which is triggered by the same virus that causes chickenpox. If you’ve had chickenpox, it can return in the form of shingles when you’re older. Symptoms include a blistering skin rash and nerve inflammation.

The CDC recommends that healthy adults 50 years and older get two doses of Shingrix®, a new vaccine that is more than 90% effective at preventing shingles and related complications. The Zostavax® vaccine, which has been around since 2006, is about 50% effective. The CDC recommends you get the Shingrix vaccine if you:
• Had shingles
• Received Zostavax
• Aren’t sure if you had chickenpox

Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

Commonly referred to as Tdap, this vaccine protects again tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. It’s given once between ages 11-64. If you’re over 65, ask your doctor about a booster. You should also receive the Tdap vaccine during pregnancy to protect the baby against whooping cough. There’s also the related Td vaccine, which protects against tetanus and diphtheria. You should receive it once every 10 years.

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