vaccinations

Our local pharmacy has already started advertising flu shots, offering bonus bargains on the day someone gets vaccinated. It seems early to me; we are still in the hottest months of the year here in San Diego. But better early than later or never.

Vaccinations for the flu, for pneumonia, for shingles can be truly life saving for seniors as the effects of these illnesses are far more serious in later years. According to a report from the Alliance for Aging Research, “[t]he risk of death from pneumonia and influenza, already higher for older adults, skyrockets for the very old: It is nearly 130 times higher in people age 85 and older than in those 45 to 54….”

The likelihood of seniors acquiring shingles increases with age as well. According to a 2013 report from CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, about half of all people who live to be 85 will come down with shingles, an extremely painful skin rash with few treatment options. Ten percent of adults who come down with shingles develop an even longer-lasting form of the disease that may continue for months or even years. If shingles rashes develop on the face, the patient may become blind.

Shingles vaccines are recommended for anyone over the age of 60 and are free for those on Medicare. Yet fewer people have gotten this vaccination than the manufacturer projected when it became available in 2006. Shingles does not spread from person to person, but anyone who has had chicken pox already has the virus that causes shingles.

Those between the recommended age of 60 and 65, the age of Medicare eligibility, may feel the pinch of price since not all insurance companies will cover the $200-$250 vaccination. Further, most doctors do not administer the vaccination in their offices, requiring patients to go to a pharmacy. As soon as I became eligible for Medicare, I asked for the shingles vaccine. I can’t understand why anyone would not. I remember what chicken pox felt like. I don’t want to experience its cousin.

 

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shingles

If you have had chicken pox, the shingles virus is already in you.

You have probably already seen and heard those ads. So have I. In addition, I have watched people suffer from the inflamation, so when our internal medicine doctor asked if we wanted to get vaccinated, we both said yes. He wrote us prescriptions since doctors don’t give the vaccinations, at least not here in California. Pharmacists do.

We are both covered by Medicare which greatly simplified the process since Medicare covers the entire cost. It is possible to get a prescription at age 60, but it is very expensive and not all insurance plans cover all or even most of the cost. 

The vaccine is approved for use in people between 50 and 59, but the Center for Disease Control doesn’t recommend it for anyone under the age of 60. There are also conditions where the vaccine is not recommended at all. According to the Mayo Clinic, the shingles vaccine isn’t recommended if you:

  • Have ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin or any other component of the shingles vaccine
  • Have a weakened immune system due to HIV/AIDS, lymphoma or leukemia
  • Are receiving immune system-suppressing drugs, such as steroids, adalimumab (Humira), infliximab (Remicade), etanercept (Enbrel), radiation or chemotherapy
  • Have active, untreated tuberculosis
  • Are pregnant or trying to become pregnant

Since there are so many conditions that may make life in our later years less enjoyable, taking a step, one that cost us nothing but the time we had to wait at the pharmacy, seemed wise and prudent.