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4 Medicare-Covered Vaccines You Need

Healthy aging is not only about regular exercise and wholesome eating. To stay healthy, you also need to protect your body from the threat of infection.

“As we get older, our bodies don’t regenerate the way they did when we were younger,” says Christa Winterhalter, PharmD, senior clinical pharmacist at Highmark. “We can’t fight off infections as easily or as often, so we need to take preventive actions to remain healthy.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends specific vaccines for people 65 and older. The vaccines work to prevent influenza (flu), pneumonia, shingles, and tetanus. With Medicare coverage, it’s easy and inexpensive for you to get these vaccines. Just make sure that the administering clinic or physician is covered by Medicare or your Medicare Advantage plan.

Here’s what you need to know about these Medicare-covered vaccines:

Flu vaccine

The flu vaccine guards against influenza, a contagious respiratory illness that can often be severe or life-threatening. This vaccine is a necessity, especially if you are over the age of 65. Older adults are at greater risk for serious complications related to the flu, such as pneumonia. Seniors also account for more than 70% of flu-related deaths.

Unlike the other vaccines listed here, you’ll need to get the seasonal flu vaccine every year. The CDC urges you to get the flu shot early in the season, which peaks between November to March.

You may have the option of a regular-dose flu shot or a specialized flu vaccine designed for people over the age of 65. “All the flu vaccines are effective,” Winterhalter says. “The most important thing is that you get a flu vaccine each year.” Medicare Part B covers all flu vaccines.

Pneumococcal vaccine

The CDC recommends that you get two separate pneumococcal vaccines if you are over the age of 65. Both protect against the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae, a strain of bacteria known to cause pneumonia, meningitis, and bloodstream infections.

According to Winterhalter, adults age 65 and older should get a dose of Prevnar 13® first, followed by a dose of Pneumovax® one year later. However, you may have received the Prevnar vaccination during your 50s. If that is the case, you won’t need to get a second vaccine dose of Prevnar 13. Medicare Part B covers both pneumococcal vaccines.

“Pneumonia is not seasonal,” Winterhalter says. “As soon as you hit the age range to get these vaccines, you really should.”

Shingles vaccine

Shingles is a painful, viral infection triggered by the same virus that causes chickenpox. According to the CDC, one in three people will develop shingles in their lifetime. Fifty percent of those people are over the age of 60.

The shingles vaccine, covered by Medicare Part D, is recommended for adults over the age of 50. “Shingles is a disease that mostly targets older adults,” Winterhalter says. “Do not procrastinate on getting this vaccine. There is no advantage to waiting.”

Tetanus (Td) vaccine

Tetanus is an incurable disease caused by bacteria contracted from dirt, dust, or feces. Most often the bacteria enter the body through broken skin. Most likely, you received your first tetanus protection when you were younger. DTaP, DT, and Tdap all offer protection from tetanus.

Adults are encouraged to get the booster tetanus (Td) vaccination every 10 years. Medicare covers this vaccination through Part D. Check with your physician to see when you should receive the vaccination again.

“It’s so important to get these vaccines, even when you are healthy,” Winterhalter says. “They help us build up immunity and make for a long and healthy retirement.”


Highmark is here to help

To learn more about Medicare coverage, schedule a personal consultation with a Highmark insurance agent or call 844-785-1796 (TTY users may call 711)

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