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August 25th, 2009
Each year in the U.S., approximately 50,000 adults die from vaccine-preventable diseases or related complications. Although infectious diseases in general are no longer the most common causes of death, pneumonia and influenza remain among the top ten causes of death for older adults. Vaccinations are readily available for common adult illnesses such as influenza, pneumonia, shingles, pertussis (whooping cough), hepatitis A, and hepatitis B. Vaccinations against less common diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella (German measles), tetanus, diphtheria, and chicken pox are also needed by some adults. Talk to your doctor to find out which vaccines are recommended for you. No flu for you An average of 36,000 deaths in the U.S. each year are because of influenza. Ninety percent of these deaths are in people 65 years of age and older. Some people avoid getting vaccinated because they believe that they can get influenza from the vaccine. The influenza vaccine, however, is made from a killed virus and is not capable of causing disease. While it s possible to get some forms of the flu even after being vaccinated, your symptoms will usually be milder and your risk of complications and hospitalization will be greatly reduced. Pneumonia vaccine facts Pneumonia is one of the most serious infections, especially among women and people over age 85. Although the pneumonia vaccine is not 100% effective in preventing pneumonia due to all causes, it actually protects against particularly severe infections caused by a bacterium called streptococcus pneumoniae. In addition, the vaccine helps protect against serious pneumonia complications such as blood and brain infections. Unlike the annual flu vaccine, you only need a pneumonia vaccine once every five years or so, depending on your risk and other health conditions. Talk to your doctor to find out when you should receive the pneumonia vaccine. Free for Medicare recipients Medicare pays 100% of the cost for influenza and pneumonia vaccinations for Medicare beneficiaries. Check with your doctor about getting immunized. In some states, pharmacists can also provide vaccinations and submit the bill directly to Medicare. If you don t have Medicare, check with your state health department. In many states, some vaccinations are free if received from your health department.