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A Shot of Prevention

Back in the day, once you’d made sure your kids got the immunizations the pediatrician recommended, you were done with shots. But in recent years, advances in medical science have ushered in a brave new world of vaccinations, and this time, they’re for grownups.

In fact, older adults now face a bewildering array of inoculations against everything from pneumonia to whooping cough. So we asked Quarry Hill health services coordinator Nina Cunningham, RN, to boil down the latest advice from the Centers for Disease Control and lay out the four key shots most adults age 65+ should get.

Flu Shot
This one’s a no-brainer. People age 65 and older are among those most likely to suffer complications from the flu. So unless your doctor advises against getting the shot, just roll up your sleeve and do it.

Td Booster or Tdap
Most adults should receive Td booster shots every 10 years. Alternatively, if you have or are expecting grandkids, your physician may suggest the Tdap, which also protects against pertussis (whooping cough), a disease that’s usually mild in adults but can be passed, with potentially serious consequences, to infants and small children.

For most, the new Shingrix vaccine against shingles is well worth the effort. Shingles produces a painful rash that can go on for weeks, and the risk of severe, long-term pain increases with age. Shingrix is highly effective in preventing shingles in older adults—90% compared to 50% to 64% for the earlier Zostavax vaccine. Ask your doctor about it.

Prevnar 13 and Pneumovax
To guard against pneumococcal disease, the CDC recommends that adults 65 and older get two vaccines: Prevnar 13 and Pneumovax. The two formulations protect against different strains of the bacteria that cause pneumococcal disease, so getting both shots maximizes your protection. Why bother? These bugs love to infect older adults, and when they do, the illness and complications thereof can be especially severe. Consult with your physician about how and when to get the two vaccines.

That’s it: just four vaccines, and you’ll have protected your health as conscientiously as you protected your kids’. Now that didn’t hurt a bit, did it?