Immunizations needed at any age
National Immunization Awareness Month in August highlights the importance of getting recommended vaccines throughout your lifetime. This is a great time to talk with your health care provider to ensure you are up to date on all recommended vaccines for your age group.
Vaccines are especially important for older adults, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. As we age, our immune system weakens, so it can be more difficult for our bodies to fight off infections. Older adults are more likely to get sick from diseases, like the flu, pneumonia and shingles, and to have complications from these infections that can lead to long-term illness, disability and even death. Vaccination is especially important for people with chronic health conditions, including diabetes or heart disease.
Below are the most commonly recommended vaccinations for older adults by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Influenza and COVID-19
The risk of severe illness from COVID-19 increases with age and chronic conditions. The CDC recommends that adults 65-plus receive COVID-19 vaccines. Vaccines are available at many community vaccination sites throughout Philadelphia. You can find a list of locations at Phila.gov/COVID-19. The Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH) is also scheduling in-home vaccinations for homebound individuals and their caregivers. To learn more about in-home vaccinations, call the PDPH at 215-685-5488.
In addition, the CDC recommends that older adults receive seasonal flu vaccines each year. More than 60% of flu-related hospitalizations occur in people 65 and older, and the flu vaccine can help to protect against serious illness. The CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine before the end of October for the best chance at protection against seasonal flu strains.
Shingles is a painful skin rash that develops on one side of the face or body. Anyone who has had chickenpox in the past can get shingles because this virus remains in the body long after a person recovers and can re-activate many years later. Nearly one in three Americans will develop shingles in their lifetime, and the risk increases with age.
The CDC recommends that all healthy adults 50 and older receive two doses (administered two to six months apart) of the shingles vaccine, called Shingrix, to prevent shingles and the complications from the disease.
Pneumococcal disease, which is caused by streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, can range from ear and sinus infections to pneumonia and bloodstream infections. The CDC recommends the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (or PPSV23) for all adults 65 or older, people 2-64 with certain medical conditions, and adults 19-64 who smoke cigarettes.
While these are the vaccines recommended most broadly by the CDC, your medical provider can speak to your individual health risks and needs. Ask your doctor about which vaccines are recommended for you at your next medical appointment.