Getting the proper vaccines is as an important part of maintaining your health as healthy diet, moderate exercise and solid sleep. Yet many adults in the U.S. don’t get the vaccines they need because they don’t know what they need, or their healthcare providers offer conflicting information. This can result in illness of preventable diseases, impacting healthcare costs and quality of life.
The Two Vaccines You Need If You Are 50 or Older:
1. Influenza Vaccine
The dreaded flu shot. Just do it. Every year. The flu vaccination changes every year based on the most common strain of the flu predicted to impact the population every year. Flu season typically runs from October – March, so getting your flu shot in mid- to early October is best, but even if you wait until later, getting the shot is still valuable. It won’t provide 100% protection, but in most years, it can reduce risk of contracting the flu by 40 – 60%, and those who do still get sick tend to have much milder symptoms.
2. Shingrix Vaccine
Shingles, or herpes zoster, is a painful, blistering rash that develops as the result of the reactivation of the varicella zoster virus, the virus that causes chickenpox. No one knows what triggers the reactivation, but getting older plays a part, as aging can weaken our immune system. Even once the rash has resolved, many people experience nerve pain that can last for weeks or even month. Shingles can develop decades after the initial chickenpox infection and is most common in adults over 50. The new Shingrix vaccine shows much improved efficacy over the older Zostovax – an average of 91% – and longer lasting efficacy, meaning even older age groups maintained that 91% efficacy rate. Shingrix requires a series of two shots, 60-days apart. If you’re over 50, even if you’ve already received the Zostavax vaccine, consider getting the Shingrix vaccine.
What else might you need?
TDAP (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) or TD Booster Vaccine
It’s not just for when you step on a rusty nail. The TDAP vaccine protects not only against tetanus and diphtheria, but also against pertussis (whooping cough.) You need either the TDAP (which you only need once) or the TD (booster) every 10 years. This is especially important for patients who have close contact with infants: think, parents, grandparents and caregivers.
Pneumococcal vaccine (pneumonia)
Pneumonia kills more people in the U.S. each year than all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined. Young people and elderly are especially susceptible, and older adults are more likely to die from pneumonia. There are two versions of the pneumonia vaccine, and people need both, at least one year apart. PCV13 guards against 13 different strains of pneumococcal bacteria, and is generally given first to people not yet immunized. The PPSV23 vaccine guards against 23 strains of pneumococcal bacteria. Many older adults have received the PPSV23 vaccine; however, they should still receive the PCV13. If you are being newly vaccinated, you’ll receive the PCV13 vaccine first but will also need to get the PPSV23 vaccine one year later.
Hepatitis A Vaccine
Recent outbreaks of Hepatitis A in the Tri-State have prompted many health officials to recommend patients get the Hepatitis A vaccine. Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver that can cause loss of appetite, nausea, tiredness, fever, stomach pain, brown-colored urine, light-colored stools and diarrhea. It is usually spread when someone unknowingly ingests the virus from food, drinks or objects contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person. The vaccination – and frequent handwashing – are the two most effective ways of preventing the Hepatitis A infection. The vaccination requires two doses, at least 6 months apart.