By: Jim Miller | Savvy Senior
Published: April 01, 2012 Updated: April 01, 2012 - 12:00 AM
Q: What types of vaccinations are recommended for seniors? I know about flu shots, but what else is recommended and what's covered by Medicare?
A: Most people think that vaccinations are just for kids, but adults, especially seniors, need their shots, too. Here's a breakdown of what vaccines the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends for adults 50 and older, and how they're covered by Medicare.
Influenza (flu): You know seasonal flu shots are recommended to everyone 50 and older, but you may not know that seniors 65 and older have the option of getting a new high-potency flu vaccine instead of a regular flu shot. This vaccine, known as the Fluzone High-Dose, creates a stronger immune response for better protection. All annual flu shots are covered under Medicare Part B.
Pneumococcal: Pneumonia causes more than 40,000 deaths in the United States each year, many of which could be prevented by the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine. Everyone 65 or older needs to get this one-time vaccination, as well as those younger than 65 who smoke or have chronic health conditions such as asthma, lung and heart disease, diabetes, or a weakened immune system. This vaccination is also covered under Medicare Part B.
Zoster (shingles): Recommended for everyone 60 and older, shingles is a painful, blistering skin rash that affects more than 1 million Americans each year. All Medicare Part D prescription drug plans cover this one-time vaccination, but coverage amounts and reimbursement rules vary depending on where the shot is given. Be sure to check your plan. If you aren't covered, you can expect to pay $150 to $250.
Tdap (tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis): A one-time dose of the Tdap vaccine, which covers tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough), is recommended to all adults. If you have had a Tdap shot, you should return to getting a tetanus-diphtheria (Td) booster shot every 10 years. Most private health and Medicare Part D plans cover these vaccinations, but if you have to pay, they cost $20 to $100.
MMR (measles, mumps and rubella): Anyone born in 1957 or later who is unsure about their immunization history should receive the MMR shot. A blood test can tell whether someone has had any of these diseases or has received the MMR vaccine, but a test costs about $100. If you're unsure about your immunity, getting a booster shot is more cost-effective (about $50 and is usually covered by insurance) and isn't harmful, even if you're immune.
Hepatitis A: This is a two-dose series of shots recommended to adults 50 and older who have chronic liver disease, a clotting-factor disorder, have same-sex male partners, illicit injectable drug use, or who have close contact with a hepatitis A-infected individual or who travel to areas with a high incidence of hepatitis A. These shots are $60 to $300, but are covered by most health and Medicare prescription drug plans.
Hepatitis B: This three-dose series is recommended to adults 50 and older who are on dialysis, have renal disease or liver disease, are sexually active with more than one partner, have a sexually transmitted disease or HIV. These vaccinations are covered under Medicare Part B.
Meningitis: Adults 55 and younger who have never been vaccinated, have had their spleen removed, have certain blood deficiencies or plan to travel to parts of the world where meningitis is common should receive the meningococcal conjugate vaccine. Adults 56 and older should receive the polysaccharide vaccine. Covered by most health and Medicare Part D plans, this shot will cost $100 to $150 if you have to pay out-of-pocket.
To help you get a handle on which vaccines are appropriate for you, take the CDC "What Vaccines Do You Need?" quiz at www2.cdc.gov/nip/adultimmsched.
Also, talk to your doctor during your next visit about what vaccinations you should get.