Shots for Seniors: Lesser Known Vaccines Seniors Need
Which vaccines are recommended for adults age 65 and older? Most may be aware that annual flu shots are a must for the elderly, but what are other shots should seniors get to prevent against illness? The CDC's 2012 list of immunizations for seniors issued by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention includes immunizations for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, measles, mumps and rubella, and hepatitis A and B. Because the elderly are at high risk for complications from vaccine-preventable disease, The Healthy Families initiative of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services seeks to reach a 90 percent immunization rate for seniors; however, immunization rates for lesser-known vaccines are alarming low. As Paula Span from the New Old Age Blog very aptly frames it, “As often happens with new vaccination guidelines, it takes some time for the word to spread. Physicians may not mention vaccination for us or our parents, but we can raise the subject ourselves.” Here are lesser-known vaccinations seniors with certain risk factors and chronic illness should be aware of:
- Tdap – A one-time dose of the tDap vaccine prevents tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough) and can be administered at the same time as a flu shot. Older adults should return every 10 years to receive a tetanus-diphtheria (Td) booster shot. Vaccination can help reduce the incidence of whooping cough complications among the elderly, who have an increase risk of developing a serious case of pneumonia.
- MMR – Older adults born before 1957 are generally considered immune from measles, mumps, and rubella. If you or your loved one was born during or after 1957, you should receive the MMR shot. Unsure if you have been immunized? A simple blood test can tell if you have received the MMR vaccine in the past. Getting a booster shot is another safe option.
- Hepatitis A – Seniors with specific risk factors should be vaccinated for HAV, particularly those traveling to foreign countries, persons with chronic liver disease or a blood clotting disorder, males who have had same-sex partners, and those who have used illicit injectable drugs.
- Hepatitis B – The CDC recommends that seniors who are at increased risk of acquiring HBV infection should be vaccinated for Hepatitis B. These risk factors include: sex with multiple partners, renal disease, liver disease, and patient on dialysis.
- Meningitis – The meningococcal vaccine is recommended for elderly persons with blood disorders including sickle cell disease, HIV infection, leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease, chronic renal failure, or other conditions associated with immunosuppression such as chemotherapy and organ or bone marrow transplantation.