What you must know about vaccines for seniors

4 Seniors

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Most people think that vaccinations are just for kids, but adults, especially seniors over age 65 who tend to have weaker immune systems, need their shots too. This is doubly important now, during the coronavirus pandemic when seniors need to stay as healthy as possible.

Here’s a rundown of what vaccines the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend all seniors should get, and how they’re covered by Medicare.

Flu vaccine: While annual flu shots are recommended each fall to everyone, they are very important for older adults to get because seniors have a much greater risk of developing dangerous flu complications. According to the CDC, last year up to 647,000 people were hospitalized and 61,200 died because of the flu – most of whom were age 65 and older.

To improve your chances of escaping the seasonal flu, consider a vaccine specifically designed for people 65 and older this September. The Fluzone High Dose or FLUAD are the two options that provide extra protection beyond what a standard flu shot offers. And all flu shots are covered under Medicare Part B.

Pneumococcal vaccine: This vaccine protects against pneumonia, which hospitalizes around 250,000 Americans and kills about 50,000 each year. It’s recommended that all seniors, 65 or older, get two separate vaccines – PCV13 (Prevnar 13) and PPSV23 (Pneumovax 23). Both vaccines, which are administered one year apart, protect against different strains of the bacteria to provide maximum protection. Medicare Part B covers both shots if they are taken at least a year apart.

Shingles vaccine: Caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox, shingles is a painful, blistering skin rash that affects more than 1 million Americans every year. All people over age 50 should get the new Shingrix vaccine, which is given in two doses, two to six months apart. Even if you’ve already had shingles, you should still get this vaccination because reoccurring cases are possible. The CDC also recommends that anyone previously vaccinated with Zostavax be revaccinated with Shingrix because it’s significantly more effective.

All Medicare Part D prescription drug plans cover shingles vaccinations, but coverage amounts, and reimbursement rules vary depending on where the shot is given. Check your plan.

Tdap vaccine: A one-time dose of the Tdap vaccine, which covers tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough) is recommended to all adults. If you’ve already had a Tdap shot, you should get a tetanus-diphtheria (Td) booster shot every 10 years. All Medicare Part D prescription drug plans cover these vaccinations.

Other Vaccinations

Depending on your health conditions, preferences, age and future travel schedule, the CDC offers a “What Vaccines Do You Need?” quiz to help you determine what additional vaccines may be appropriate for you. You should also talk to your doctor during your next visit about which vaccinations you should get.

To locate a site that offers any of these vaccines, visit VaccineFinder.org and type in your location.

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