There are 5 vaccinations recommended by the CDC for adults over 65; Flu, Pneumonia, Shingles, Tetanus/Diptheria/Pertussis, and Covid. Over the last year we have been inundated with information about the Covid vaccines. Many people have forgotten about other important vaccines that we know are safe and effective. Let’s take a look at some criteria for each one so you know which ones to discuss with your doctor.
Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection with circulating influenza viruses.Seasonal flu vaccines are designed to protect against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. All flu vaccines in the United States protect against four different flu viruses. New vaccines are developed twice a year as the virus is always mutating. Adults over 65 should be vaccinated annually in July/August. Effectiveness varies each season.
Vaccines developed for pneumonia fight against the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae and they can prevent some cases of pneumonia, meningitis, and sepsis. There are actually 4 vaccines in the US for this but only 3 are recommended for adults over 65. Each one protects against multiple types of pneumococcal bacteria and some protect against “invasive” bacteria that will invade the organs or bloodstream. Invasive disease can be very serious and even life threatening. Studies show that getting one dose of the Prevnar23 vaccine is effective at protecting 6 out of 10 healthy adults over 65 from invasive pneumococcal disease.
The CDC recommends adults over 50 receive 2 doses of the shingles vaccine 2 to 6 months apart for protection from the virus and a complication called post herpetic neuralgia or PHN which is extremely painful and can last for years. It has shown to be over 90% effective over 7 years after vaccination. You can get shingles even if you never had chickenpox although the viruses are closely related.
The tetanus/diptheria/pertussis vaccine is typically given to children but in 2005 they developed a booster for adults called a Tdap vaccine. Tetanus is caused by bacteria found in dirt and manure and can impair the nervous system. Diphtheria attaches to the lining of the lungs and can get into the bloodstream damaging the heart, kidneys, and nerves. Pertussis (whooping cough) causes coughing fits and difficulty breathing. The Tdap is recommended if you have not received a tetanus shot in the last 10 years, is more than 95% effective against diphtheria and tetanus and 70% at preventing pertussis.
Many vaccines have some mild side effects like soreness at injection site or body aches. Taking Motrin or Tylenol a couple hours before the injection may help prevent or afterwards using ice on the injection site. Discuss which vaccines are best for you with your primary care physician.