Vaccines are particularly important for seniors

vaccines seniorsVaccinations are important for all populations to prevent the spread of, and complications caused by, serious illnesses. It is particularly important for seniors to receive recommended vaccinations because the body’s immune system becomes more susceptible to illness as we age.

Flu vaccine

The most important vaccine for seniors is an annual influenza or flu vaccine. An estimated yearly average of 21,000 influenza-related deaths occur among adults 65 years-old and older.

New vaccines have been developed to address senior needs, and promote a better immune response.

Currently, high-dose influenza vaccines are licensed and available. Studies done on more than 31,000 people found 24 percent greater effectiveness with this compared to standard dose vaccines, although there are more potential side effects.

Pneumococcal or pneumonia vaccine

There are now two different vaccines for people 65 and older. These are 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, or PCV 13, and 23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine, or PPSV 23.

The first covers 13 strains of the bacteria that commonly causes pneumonia and the second covers 23 strains. PCV 13 is recommended to be administered first followed 6-12 months later by PPSV 23. If PPSV 23 has already been received, PCV 13 should be given one time at least one year later.

There are no repeat doses unless the patient received a first dose prior to age 65 and is experiencing chronic-disease complications.

Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis vaccines

Since 2012 tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough, vaccine (TdaP) has been recommended for all adults aged 65 years and older.

Initially, it was given to adults under 65 in order to prevent it from spreading to children – then cases of whooping cough started occurring in people over the age of 65, leading to the recommendation for everyone 65 and older to receive it one time. After the one dose, it is suggested that seniors receive a tetanus and diphtheria vaccine every 10 years.

Shingles vaccine

Zostavax, a vaccine to help prevent shingles, has been available since 2006. Although Zostavax can have complications for individuals over 60, the vaccine prevented about 50 percent of shingles in this population.

Most importantly, it significantly decreased the incidence of post-herpetic neuralgia, or pain that continues for months and sometimes years after shingles is over. At this time, it is recommended that all people 60 and older receive one vaccination.

Vaccines are particularly important for seniors

Seniors should address a primary care provider and discuss their medical history, current needs, and how vaccinations fit into their overall health plan.


Dr. William Abraham is board-certified in internal medicine and has more than 30 years of experience. He is a TMC One provider who specializes in same-day/next-day appointments at the Wilmot location.

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