Immunizations for Seniors

Three immunizations are recommended for those over the age of 65. Medicare covers all three.

  • Flu shot – given yearly
  • Pneumonia vaccine – given once

  • Tetanus booster – given once every 10 years

Flu (Influenza)

Immunization against the flu is one of the best preventive measures you can take to stay in good shape.

Flu Shot Facts

You cannot get the flu from the vaccine, which is made from killed viruses.

A yearly flu shot lowers your chances of getting the flu. If you have been immunized and you still get the flu, your symptoms will be less severe and your risk of serious illness will be greatly reduced.

Vaccinations must be repeated each year because flu viruses change. Every year the flu shot is updated to protect against the most current strains.

The best time to be vaccinated is October or November. It takes one to two weeks after the shot to develop protection, and flu season typically runs from November or December to April. Since protection only lasts for about six months, you run the risk of not being protected in late winter if you get vaccinated too early.

Pneumonia

Pneumonia is the leading cause of illness and death among seniors. Each year it causes more than 46,000 deaths in the United States — more than all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined.

There are two types of pneumonia — viral pneumonia and bacterial pneumonia. Bacterial pneumonia is the most serious and can be caused by several types of bacteria. Today's pneumonia vaccine is effective against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria.

The vaccine is recommended for everyone over the age of 65. It is safe and effective, provides long-term protection, and can be given at any time of the year.

Tetanus

Tetanus (also known as lockjaw) is caused by a common bacterium that lives in soil and dust. The bacteria typically enter the body through a deep puncture wound or severe cut, like those made by nails or knives.

Almost everyone was immunized against tetanus as a child through a series of shots that combined tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis vaccines (DTP). The problem is that this protection does not last a lifetime. Adults must be vaccinated every 10 years to maintain protection against tetanus. This booster shot is given as a combined tetanus-diphtheria vaccine (Td), which also provides protection against diphtheria, the more rare although very serious disease.