As more and more people receive their COVID-19 vaccines, older adults should be aware of other vaccines they may need. Vaccinations are often associated with children, but protection from childhood immunizations can wear off over time. The terms “vaccination” and “immunizations” are often used interchangeably. However, there are differences between these two terms. Vaccination is the act of getting a vaccine. Vaccines are made from very small amounts of weak or dead disease-causing agents such as bacteria or viruses that prepares your body to fight the disease faster and more effectively, so you do not get sick or as sick as you would without the vaccine (Health and Human Services, n.d.). Immunization is the process of becoming immune to or protected against a disease through vaccination (Health and Human Services, n.d).
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), age, lifestyle, and health conditions may increase risk for vaccine-preventable diseases (CDC, n.d.). Immunizations help prevent getting and spreading serious diseases that can result in poor health, medical bills, and not being able to care for others. It is important for older adults especially, to keep up with their vaccinations. In addition, there are certain vaccines that have been developed specifically for older adults. Vaccines are one of the safest ways to protect your health (CDC, n.d.).
There are a variety of vaccinations that adults should get to achieve immunization against various diseases. Below is a list of the vaccines recommended by the CDC (CDC, n.d.).
- Influenza (Seasonal Flu)
- All adults should get the flu vaccine each year. This vaccine is especially important for older adults and those with chronic health conditions.
- Tdap (Pertussis)
- Every adult should receive this once, if they did not receive it as an adolescent.
- This vaccine protects against pertussis (whooping cough).
- Td (tetanus, diphtheria)
- A Td booster shot is needed every 10 years to protect against tetanus and diphtheria (bacterial infection).
- Herpes Zoster (Shingles)
- This is recommended for healthy adults 50 years and older.
- The shingles vaccine protects against shingles and related complications.
- Pneumococcal Vaccines
- There are two pneumococcal vaccines that protect against serious pneumococcal diseases, which includes meningitis, pneumonia, and bloodstream infections.
- One pneumococcal vaccine, PPSV23, is recommended for all adults 65 years or older.
- The other pneumococcal vaccine, PCV13, is recommended for people with certain medical conditions.
- Adults 65 and older can discuss with their doctor about the PCV13 vaccine.
How to Pay for Vaccines
Below is a list of the vaccines mentioned above that are covered by private insurance, Medicare, and Medi-Cal (Medicaid).
- Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis
Medicare Part B:
- Pneumococcal vaccines
- Hepatitis B (for persons of increased risk)
Medicare Part D:
- Part D plans cover vaccines through formularies. Part D plan formularies include all commercially available vaccines except those covered by Part B.
- Contact your plan to find out about coverage.
Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage Plan Part C:
- These plans that offer Medicare prescription drug coverage may cover the following:
- Most state Medicaid agencies cover at least some adult vaccinations. Check with your state Medicaid agency for more information.
Where and How to Get Vaccinated
Vaccines are typically available at doctors’ offices, pharmacies, health clinics, health departments, and other community locations. At each annual appointment with a primary care doctor, be sure to ask if you need any vaccinations based on your age, health, and other factors (CDC, n.d.). It is recommended that all adults receive the flu shot each year during flu season.
Ask your doctor if you need any other vaccinations or reference your vaccination record. A vaccination record, also called an immunization record, keeps track of all of the vaccines you received as a child and adult (CDC, n.d.). These records may be needed to travel internationally and should be kept up to date. There is no national organization that keeps track of vaccination records. If you do not have your immunization record, check with your doctor. However, keep in mind that vaccination records are kept at doctor’s offices for a limited number of years. Alternatively, check with your state’s public health department. In California, there is a California Immunization Registry that may have your vaccination information. You can try to find your records by requesting access using this link.
It is important for older adults to stay up to date with their immunizations. Vaccines can help you stay healthy and avoid missing out on a busy life by getting sick. By getting vaccinated, you can help protect yourself and others from vaccine-preventable diseases.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). What Vaccines are Recommended for You. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/adults/rec-vac/index.html
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Vaccine Basics. Retrieved from https://www.hhs.gov/immunization/basics/index.html