Which Immunizations are Necessary After Age 65?

Immunizations are an essential part of health care throughout your life. However, the vaccinations you need will change as you age. People over the age of 65 typically have a higher risk of contracting specific illnesses. They may also experience more severe and even life-threatening symptoms in the event they do contract an illness. As the world is currently battling the COVID-19 pandemic, immunizations like the flu vaccine are of increased importance to this age group.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that most people over the age of 65 receive the following immunizations after first speaking with a doctor:

  • Flu vaccine – people over the age of 65 are at a higher risk for developing serious complications, such as pneumonia, from the flu. While the flu vaccine will not prevent COVID-19, catching the flu can also put you at greater risk of complications from the virus. For this reason, the flu vaccine has become especially important as a preventative measure.
  • Tdap vaccine or Td booster shot – this vaccine protects you from pertussis, also called whooping cough, tetanus, and diphtheria.
  • Shingles vaccine – this vaccine protects you from the varicella-zoster virus, which causes both chickenpox and shingles.
  • Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23) – protects against pneumococcal diseases, such as pneumonia, meningitis, or other blood stream infections.
  • Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) – protects against pneumococcal disease and pneumonia for people with a compromised immune system.

Before receiving any immunization, you should always speak with a doctor about the potential risks, whether in-person or via telehealth. However, most people can receive immunizations with few-to-no complications.

How Often Are Immunizations Needed?

Every immunization works differently to provide your body with the protection it needs. Some vaccinations are effective throughout your lifetime, while others require yearly injections or boosters to remain active.

The CDC recommends the following immunization schedule for people over the age of 65:

  • Flu vaccine – vaccinate every year before the end of October, if possible.
  • Tdap vaccine and Td booster shot – you should receive Tdap once in your lifetime, either as an adolescent or adult. You should receive the Td booster once every 10 years.
  • Shingles vaccine – two doses of the vaccine two to six months apart.
  • PPSV23 – one dose after the age of 65.
  • PCV13 – one dose after the age of 65 if you are immunocompromised or have a doctor’s recommendation.

You should always talk to your doctor about dosage and timing, as well as your individual health concerns before you receive any immunization.

 

Are There More Significant Health Risks After 65?

As with other medical treatments, immunizations do present some level of risk to your health in some circumstances. However, severe side effects from vaccines are rare, given the extensive testing and monitoring conducted by the CDC and Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Even after the age of 65, the most common side effects of immunization are mild redness, soreness, or swelling at the injection site.

On the other hand, people over 65 are at a much higher risk of serious health problems due to preventable diseases. As your body ages, your immune system declines, which impairs your ability to fight off illnesses. This increases the likelihood of pneumonia, hospitalization, and even death when you are sick.

Immunizations are the safest way to ensure that you remain healthy for as long as possible as you grow older.

Follow Your Doctor’s Orders

Keeping up to date with immunizations can be a vital part of helping yourself and others stay safe and healthy. Your doctor can help you determine what immunizations are best for your unique situation.

If you are already receiving care from MJHS and have questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.