Fall is in full swing, meaning colorful foliage, delicious pumpkin treats, and—perhaps best of all—cooler weather! While you may be celebrating the end of an unbearable summer, it’s important to remember that cooler weather can also mean greater risk of getting sick.
Here’s a list of four vaccines that Medicare helps pay for and that you should talk with your doctor about to help protect yourself from illness this winter and beyond.
Influenza Vaccine:Why is it important for older adults to get the flu shot? Older adults—even if you are healthy—are at higher risk when it comes to the flu due to age-related weakening of our immune systems, making it more difficult for us to fight off disease.
The flu vaccine is a once a year, cost-free Medicare Part B benefit. For Original Medicare, you must use a physician or healthcare provider who accepts Medicare, and for Medicare Advantage, you may have to use an in-network doctor or pharmacy.
Shingles Vaccine: Shingles is a painful skin rash that’s caused by the same virus responsible for chickenpox. Shingles is less contagious than chickenpox, and can only be passed on to another person up until the point when the infected person’s blisters begin to scab. Even after shingles passes, long-term pain can linger.
Researchers believe that the age-related weakening of our immune systems can trigger the “reawakening” of the dormant chickenpox virus.
All Medicare Part D drug plans, or Medicare Advantage plans that include prescription coverage, typically cover the shingles vaccine.
Pneumococcal Vaccine: Pneumococcal disease causes severe infections throughout the bloodstream and/or key organs. While you may not have heard of pneumococcal disease, you have probably heard of the conditions that result from this disease, including pneumonia and meningitis.
The pneumococcal vaccine is a cost-free benefit covered by Medicare Part B. For Original Medicare, you must use a physician or healthcare provider who accepts Medicare, and for Medicare Advantage, you may have to use an in-network doctor or pharmacy.
Hepatitis B Vaccine: What is the hepatitis B virus? Hepatitis B (or hep B) is a contagious virus that infects the liver. Acute hep B, which usually lasts a few weeks, often mimics symptoms similar to the flu, like fever and nausea. Chronic hep B is long-term, often has no symptoms at all, and can cause liver damage or death.
Why is it important for older adults to get the hepatitis B vaccine? The liver and its function change as you age, making hep B more prevalent among older adults. Your risk of contracting hepatitis B increases if you have hemophilia, end-stage renal disease (ESRD), diabetes, or other conditions that lower resistance to infection. Acute hep B is particularly dangerous for older adults because there is no specific treatment for the symptoms.
Make a plan to get vaccinated today!
Getting these vaccines is an important part of healthy aging, and they also help ensure the health of your friends and family. Call your doctor today to see if these vaccines are right for your health, and then check with your Medicare provider about where you can get them. If you know someone who may not be vaccinated, share this information with them so they can take the next step toward protecting themselves.