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Boomers Skipping Needed Vaccinations

Two-thirds of people age 65+ haven’t had shingles shot, feds say

Boomers Skipping Needed Vaccines

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Older adults are at increased risk of health complications that can be prevented by vaccines, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Americans over age 60 are often not getting needed immunizations, and that is creating a growing risk to the healthcare system, say federal disease-prevention experts.

About two-thirds of those who are 65 and older have never had the shingles vaccine, and more than 4 in 10 haven’t had a tetanus shot in the past 10 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As for the pneumococcal vaccine, nearly a third of older people haven’t had this immunization.

Older Americans do better about getting flu shots. But nearly 1 in 3 between ages 65 and 74 skipped the shot during the last flu season.

The data is worrisome because older adults are at increased risk of complications that can be prevented by vaccines, the CDC says. And adults age 65+ who skip immunizations drive up health care costs when they get sick — to the tune of $4.8 billion a year, according to researchers’ estimates.

Most people should get a flu shot annually, get a tetanus booster every 10 years and keep their pneumococcal and shingles vaccines current, say federal health officials and leading medical experts.

The most neglected inoculation, the shingles vaccine reduces the risk of getting a viral disease that can cause one's skin to become painful and blistered, as well as symptoms such as fever, headache, fatigue and sensitivity to light, according to the Mayo Clinic website. The vaccine is recommended for adults 60 and older. That includes those who have already had shingles.

This story appears in the September 2017 issue of the AARP Bulletin.