What Vaccines to Get After Age 50

Dear Tasha:

My Dad lives with a chronic illness that has caused his immune system to be weaker. As a result, he seems to catch every bug that makes the rounds.

I’m trying to make a list of vaccines that might protect him so we can speak with his doctor about them later this month.

Do you know a good resource to help us?

Kind Regards,

Dewayne

Vaccines for Older Adults to Consider

Dear Dewayne:

What a great question! With physicians so stretched for time, it’s important to take a proactive approach to your health and that of your senior loved ones.

Here is a list of vaccines to ask your father’s physician about. It is based on suggestions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

1. The Flu Vaccine
Most older adults are familiar with this one. Experts say because it can take up to two weeks after the shot is received for immunity to begin, early October is the best time to be vaccinated.

For seniors who live with chronic health problems like your Dad, this yearly vaccine is important. The flu can worsen existing medical conditions and lead to other complications. The CDC estimates that as many as 90% of flu-related deaths each year occur in seniors.

2. Shingles
If you aren’t familiar with this illness, shingles is a very painful skin rash more common in older adults. It is caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox (varicella).

The CDC recommends adults over the age of 60 should be vaccinated for shingles every five years. Even if your Dad has had shingles before, he can still be vaccinated against future outbreaks.

3. Tdap Shot 
Another vaccine the CDC recommends is the Tdap shot. This combination vaccine protects against three dangerous diseases: tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. It is recommended for adults every 10 years.

Pertussis, in particular, seems to be on the rise in recent years. Complications that may arise range from pneumonia to broken ribs. Given your father’s weakened immune system, I would definitely put this one on the list to talk with his doctor about.

4. Pneumonia
Like the flu shot, this vaccine is one seniors are more familiar with. The pneumococcal vaccine protects against four dangerous bacterial infections:

  • pneumococcal pneumonia (which targets the respiratory system)
  • pneumococcal meningitis  (an infection of the brain and spinal cord)
  • pneumococcal bacteremia (an infection in the bloodstream)
  • pneumococcal otitis media (an infection in the middle ear that can lead to deafness)

The vaccine is recommended for people over the age of 65 and people who are considered to be at high risk for these illnesses. There are actually a few different types of pneumonia vaccines so be sure to clarify with your Dad’s doctor which one he recommends.

I hope this information makes you feel more confident when you and your Dad are speaking with his physician.

Sincerely,

Tosha McClendon