Health & Wellness

Vaccines: Boosters are for adults, too

August 2,2017 | Health & Wellness

As we age, it can seem like we look after others’ health and wellbeing instead of our own. Scheduling immunizations for children comes naturally, but we forget to arm ourselves against common conditions like influenza, Pneumococcal pneumonia or shingles (or herpes zoster) that are particularly dangerous for older people.


Available data supports this claim. Two thirds of older Americans have never received a shingles vaccine, and close to half haven’t had a tetanus shot in the past decade, according to a recent brief released by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The risks associated with foregoing vaccines can be life threatening in this population – the CDC estimates that of the 226,000 people hospitalized for flu in an average year, 50% to 70% are over 65.


What’s more, adult vaccine avoidance burdens the economy through doctor visits, hospitalizations and lost income. A recent report published in Health Affairs estimates vaccine-preventable diseases cost the US economy $9 billion dollars in 2015. Unvaccinated adults (aged 19 and older) were responsible for almost 80 percent, or $7 billion, of this total cost.


So what do you need to know about vaccines as you age? This August, in recognition of National Immunization Awareness Month, it’s time for grown-ups to go back to school.


1. Learn about recommended vaccines: You will need to request specific vaccines from your doctor. The recommended vaccines for older adults can prevent:


    a. Influenza (Flu)

    b. Shingles

    c. Diphtheria

    d. Tetanus

    e. Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

    f. Pneumococcal Pneumonia


Older adults may need one or more vaccines, even if they received a vaccine as a child. The CDC created guidelines and a quiz that explain which vaccines are recommended to help seniors and their caregivers decide the vaccines to request.


2. Talk to your doctor: As we age, doctors’ visits are focused on specific medical issues that take precedence over general health. While a pediatrician is responsible to ensure a child’s vaccines are up-to-date, adult specialists have a narrow focus during a patient’s short office visit. Once you know which vaccines you may need, consult your doctor for more information.


3. Check if your vaccines are covered: If you have Medicare, it covers some vaccines and immunizations, but you’ll need to check your individual coverage plan. Medicare Part B will cover flu, pneumonia or hepatitis B (depending on your risk factors) vaccines, and you will need Medicare Part D to receive coverage for other vaccines.


4. Get vaccinated! : After consulting your doctor and receiving a recommendation for vaccines, figure out the most convenient location for vaccinations. Vaccines can be administered at your doctor’s office, pharmacies (like Walgreens) or use this online tool to find a health center near you. Based on state regulations, some Walgreens pharmacists can administer a wide range of CDC-recommended immunizations, including shingles and pneumonia, and you can earn 1000 points per vaccination after linking your AARP membership with your Balance® Rewards account.*


*Vaccines subject to availability. State-, age- and health-related restrictions may apply. Points good on next purchase. Points cannot be earned in AR, NJ or NY. Complete details at



These articles present general information and are for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for legal, financial, medical, or other professional advice.

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