Flu Shots Options
Just as they do every year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a seasonal flu shot to almost everyone, but it’s especially important for seniors who are at higher risk of developing serious flu-related complications. The flu puts more than 200,000 people in the hospital each year and kills around 24,000 — 90 percent of whom are seniors. Here’s the rundown of the different options:
To locate a vaccination site that offers these flu shots, go to vaccines.gov and type in your ZIP code. You also will be happy to know that if you’re a Medicare beneficiary, Part B will cover 100 percent of the costs of any flu shot, as long as your doctor, health clinic or pharmacy agrees not to charge you more than Medicare pays. Private health insurers also are required to cover standard flu shots, however, you’ll need to check with your provider to see if they cover the other vaccination options.
The other important vaccinations the CDC recommends to seniors, especially this time of year, are the pneumococcal vaccines for pneumonia. An estimated 900,000 people in the U.S. get pneumococcal pneumonia each year, and it kills around 5,000.
This year, the CDC is recommending that all seniors 65 or older get two separate vaccines, which is a change of decades-old advice. The vaccines are Prevnar 13 and Pneumovax 23. Previously, only Pneumovax 23 was recommended for seniors.
Both vaccines, which are administered just once, work in different ways to provide maximum protection.
If you haven’t yet received any pneumococcal vaccine you should get the Prevnar 13 first, followed by Pneumovax 23 six to 12 months later. But, if you’ve already been vaccinated with Pneumovax 23 you should get Prevnar 13 at least one year later.
Medicare currently covers only one pneumococcal vaccine per older adult. If you’re paying out of pocket, you can expect to pay around $50-$85 for Pneumovax 23, and around $120-$150 for the Prevnar 13.