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The Vaccines You Need at 50+

Here are details on the ones to get, the ones to skip

Herpes zoster (shingles) vaccine

Who needs it: Everyone over age 60

How often: Once

Notes: Zoster vaccine is recommended for everyone over age 60, regardless of whether you’ve had a prior episode of shingles — a painful, blistering skin rash, caused by the varicella-zoster virus — which can be especially painful in older adults. Some experts recommend getting the vaccine only if you’ve had a prior episode of chicken pox. But the CDC recommends that everyone over 60 get vaccinated because more than 99 percent of Americans over age 40 have had chicken pox, even if they don’t recall getting the disease. Also, the older patients are, the more severe are their cases of shingles.

Do not get this vaccine if you:

  • Have ever had a life-threatening or severe allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin, or any other component of shingles vaccine
  • Have a weakened immune system because of:   

        o    HIV/AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system
        o    Treatment with drugs that affect the immune system, such as               steroids
        o    Cancer treatment such as radiation or chemotherapy
        o    A history of cancer affecting the bone marrow or lymphatic                  system, such as leukemia or lymphoma;
  • Are or might be pregnant

MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine

Who needs it: Adults born after 1956 that have not been immunized or are unsure of their immunization status. People born before 1957 — the year the first measles vaccine began to be tested — generally are considered immune to measles and mumps because they are likely to have had one of the diseases as a child. If you don’t know your immunization status, get a booster shot.

How often: Once

Notes: You should ask your doctor before getting this vaccine if you:

  • Have ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin, or to a previous dose of MMR vaccine
  • Are moderately or severely ill at the time the shot is scheduled
  • Are or might be pregnant. Also, women should avoid getting pregnant for four weeks after getting MMR vaccine.
  • Have HIV/AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system
  • Are being treated with drugs that affect the immune system, such as steroids
  • Have any kind of cancer
  • Are undergoing cancer treatment with x-rays or drugs
  • Have ever had a low platelet count (a blood disorder)
  • Have recently had a transfusion or were given other blood products

Hepatitis A vaccine

Who needs it: Adults age 50 and older that engage in certain behaviors — including same-sex male intercourse and illicit injectable drug use — that are considered high-risk behaviors for contracting hepatitis A. Because the disease can also spread through close personal contact, the shot is also recommended for people who have chronic liver disease, have close contact with a hepatitis A-infected individual or who travel to areas with a high incidence of hepatitis A.

How often: Once, but given in two doses over six to 18 months

Notes: If you or anyone close to you is adopting a child from a country with a high rate of hepatitis A, you should get the vaccine.

Next: Hepatitis B vaccine. »

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