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Are you up-to-date on your vaccinations?

University of Florida Susan Schneider is a board-certified geriatric physician at the University of Florida.
Published Jan. 23, 2018

Editor's note: This is Part 1 of a two-part series on wellness. What tests and checkups should be on your radar in 2018? See Part 2 in the Feb. 28 issue of LifeTimes.

For many seniors, the start of a new year is an ideal time to schedule a healthy chat with their physicians. Once people are into their 50s, there are several illnesses they can head off with timely immunizations.

Flu shots and a new vaccine for shingles have been in the news lately, so LifeTimes spoke with Dr. Susan Schneider, 48, a board-certified geriatric physician at the University of Florida, about which shots should be among the topics to discuss with your doctor.

While insurance coverage and vaccine costs may vary, Schneider emphasized that these are the guidelines suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With a new shot for the painful shingles rash being approved, what can we expect to be available for immunization this year?

There are a lot of changes in recommended immunizations coming in 2018 that may be determined by insurance coverage rather than age ranges or physiology. … There are changes almost annually.

At age 50, what shot is at the top of the list?

You should get the flu shot each year. I recommend the shot all the way to March.

And then when is the new flu shot for 2018 available?

In August.

Isn't there a different, high-dose flu shot for seniors?

It's recommended for people 65 and older. Seniors may not have as robust of an immune system.

What else should be routinely reviewed?

Be sure your tetanus shot is up to date every 10 years.

What about any pre-existing conditions?

For people with early pulmonary issues, the pneumonia vaccine (which covers 13 different bacteria that can cause pneumonia).

When is the shingles shot recommended?

Starting at ages 60 to 64. There's a new shingles shot — Shingrix — coming out on the market. It's superior to the previous shingles vaccine at preventing the initial episodes of the shingles and recurrence.

Why is it important to prevent shingles? How serious is shingles?

There can be terrible nerve pain that remains after the rash is gone. Some people have chronic nerve damage where the rash occurred. It's one of the worst pains we can experience as humans.

How will Shingrix be different from the previous vaccine (Zostavax)?

The new vaccine will be given in two doses — one shot and then another shot perhaps six months later.

How much better is Shingrix over the previous shingles vaccine?

The new shot is 10 percent more effective. The new vaccine is 97 percent effective in preventing shingles in people in their 50s and 60s and 91 percent effective in people in their 70s and 80s.

Since shingles is caused by the childhood disease chickenpox, is there any other childhood disease to be worried about as a senior? Are there any childhood immunizations that should be repeated?

There are families that did not immunize their children for whooping cough, so you may be at risk.

What about hepatitis?

Hepatitis A is usually a concern for people who live where there is a lack of clean water. That's not a problem in Florida.

What are the most common concerns from patients about immunizations?

The most common concern about the high-dose flu shot is that they are afraid the flu shot will make them sick. Some people can feel run-down and crummy (after the shot), but the flu shot is not a live virus so it's impossible for the flu shot to give them the flu.

Contact Fred W. Wright Jr. at travelword@aol.com.

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