August is National Immunization Awareness Month, the perfect time to remind the communities we serve about the importance of getting recommended vaccines throughout our lives – especially as we get older. Vaccines work by helping familiarize our immune systems with pathogens so that our bodies will know what to do if infected by those pathogens in the future. Protection from infections helps us go forth and live life boldly! Let’s talk more about why immunization is important and then answer some commonly asked questions you might have.
Why is it important to get vaccinated as you get older?
While immunization is important for every stage of life, it is especially important for older adults. Our immune system naturally weakens with age, so it’s important to get the recommended vaccines to protect us for the life we lead.
As explained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (OASH), it’s important to get recommended vaccines as we get older because older adults are more likely to get certain diseases or complications from certain illnesses and protection from some vaccines wear off over time. Getting vaccinated also protects other people!
What are the most important vaccinations for those 65 and older?
If you are over 65, there are a few immunizations that are most important for your health, including:
- Flu shot
- Shingles vaccine
- Pneumococcal (pneumonia) vaccine
- Hepatitis B vaccine
- COVID-19 vaccine
If you’re wondering about Medicare coverage for these recommended vaccines – whether you have Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan, check out our previous blog post. ApexHealth members, if you have any questions about what’s covered, reach out to your ApexAssistant! They’re here to help you make sure you get all your recommended vaccines.
5 commonly asked questions about vaccines
1. Do I need both the flu shot and the COVID-19 vaccine?
Flu shots do not protect against COVID-19, so it’s important to get both. The CDC recommends that everyone get a flu vaccine every year before the end of October, if possible. Flu vaccines in the United States are quadrivalent vaccines, which means they protect against four different viruses. This year, the CDC has recommended three different flu shots for those 65 and older, so be sure to ask if these are available.
Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine is also not a one-time event. The recommended immunization for the COVID-19 vaccine includes multiple doses and boosters. To get the most up-to-date information and find a vaccination site near you, visit Vaccines.gov.
2. Are flu shots and the COVID-19 vaccine safe?
You might have some questions about the safety of flu and COVID-19 vaccines. As the CDC explains, both flu shots and the COVID-19 vaccine have a good safety record. Health problems from either are extremely rare. Ask your health care provider if you have any questions about the safety of recommended vaccines.
3. How do I know if I’m up to date on my vaccines?
Your primary care provider (PCP) can help determine if you are due for a vaccine. (And if you don’t have a PCP, you can read our previous blog post on how to find one.) The CDC also has a vaccination assessment tool to help give you an idea of what immunizations you may need.
4. Where can I get my recommended vaccines?
Make an appointment with your PCP to get caught up on your recommended vaccines. Local pharmacies may also provide seasonal vaccinations such as the flu shot. ApexHealth members can use our online tool to find a pharmacy near you. The COVID-19 vaccine is now widely available. Use the vaccine finder tool to find a location near you.
5. Do I need any additional vaccines?
There may be certain instances where you may need additional vaccines. According to the OASH, these are:
- Not getting all your vaccines when you were a child
- Having a long-term health condition like diabetes or heart, lung or liver disease
- Spending time with infants or young children
- Traveling outside the United States
Always ask your doctor about additional vaccines you may need if any of these apply to you.
If you have any more questions about vaccines and which ones are right for you, talk to your doctor. If you are an ApexHealth member, ask your ApexAssistant for help scheduling an appointment or answering questions. Give us a call at (844) 279-0508 (TTY: 711). Our hours of operation are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. (local time) from Apr. 1 through Sept. 30 and seven days a week 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. (local time) from Oct. 1 through Mar. 31.