Check That Seniors’ Immunizations Are Up to Date

Senior immunizations

As baby boomers reach senior status, many are missing recommended vaccines

Recommended Immunizations for Seniors

  • Prevnar 13
  • Pneumovax
  • Zostavax
  • Td/Tdap
  • Influenza

Baby boomers still think of themselves as young, although about 10,000 have been turning 65 every day since 2011. They don’t believe old age starts until 72, and many feel 9 years younger than they are, the Pew Research Center says.1

The reality: At their age, boomers should be updating their immunizations to remain healthy, but many aren’t. This represents a healthcare gap that pharmacies offering immunizations can help fill for a long time, since 10,000 boomers reaching 65 daily will continue until 2030.

Even seniors who are diligent about receiving a flu shot every year may be missing other important immunizations your pharmacy could provide. (See the full list of recommended immunizations on the right.)

In 2013, only 59.7% of adults 65 and older were covered by a recommended pneumococcal vaccination, and just 24% of those 60 and older had received the herpes zoster vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).2

New Pneumonia Shot Added

Last year, ACIP recommended adding a second type of pneumococcal vaccine for people ages 65 and older, to boost their protection against diseases that often lead to hospitalization and death.

The Dangers for Older Adults

Pneumococcal disease can be deadly, particularly for older adults. The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases says:

  • 18,000 adults ages 65 and older die each year in the U.S. from pneumococcal disease, which includes pneumonia, bacteremia and meningitis.
  • Of the 1 million adults who get pneumococcal pneumonia each year, 5–7% die, and while fewer get meningitis or sepsis, 10% of the adults who are infected with those die.
  • Among older adults ages 65 and up, 10% who get the worst forms of pneumococcal disease die.
  • For survivors, complications can include heart problems, paralysis, hearing or vision loss, and seizures.
Source: “Pneumococcal Disease,” National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. LINK

The CDC approved the recommendation for one dose of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (Prevnar 13, PCV13) for those who haven’t previously received a pneumonia vaccine, followed 6–12 months later by a dose of pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (Pneumovax, PPSV23). For those who already have received PPSV23, the recommendation calls for a dose of PCV13 at least one year later.3

Although most private insurance plans and Medicare Part B cover pneumococcal vaccines, it is important to check the coverage details. (See also CDC’s Resources for Adult Vaccination Insurance and Payment.) For example, Medicare Part B currently covers the cost of both recommended pneumococcal vaccines, but only when administered at least 11 months apart.4

Seniors Need to Increase Immunization Rates

With effective vaccines but low coverage rates, ACIP said in the Annals of Internal Medicine, “Healthcare providers have an opportunity to make a significant impact in reducing the morbidity of pneumococcal disease among adults by ensuring that their patients are up to date on their pneumococcal vaccinations.”

The CDC also says that because some strains of the pneumococcal disease have become resistant to treatment with penicillin and other drugs, vaccination is increasingly important.5

Spreading the Word

With ACIP’s recommendation coming just before flu season last year, some people reported difficulty finding a pharmacy or healthcare provider to administer Prevnar 13.6 If your pharmacy offers this vaccine, make sure people know and understand what the recommendation is and are aware that your pharmacy can provide this shot.

Because the CDC says PCV13 is safe to administer at the same time as the trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine, you can talk to seniors about getting the new vaccine with their flu shot this year.

To expand your vaccine services to seniors:

  • Educate providers about the recommendations and availability of vaccines for this audience. Don’t assume that doctors will know about the new recommendation for Prevnar 13 or your ability to provide it to patients.McKesson’s Physician Outreach Program can help you identify providers who serve seniors or other high-risk populations for whom vaccines are recommended, such as patients with diabetes.When one pharmacist discovered physicians were recommending the shingles vaccine but didn’t know where to send patients, she created a form they could use to prescribe the Zostavax® vaccine that included her pharmacy’s location and hours.
  • Explain to patients why recommended vaccines are important. The CDC offers a number of resources for communicating with patients about vaccines. To help adults make informed decisions, the CDC encourages providers to SHARE:
    • Share why the vaccine is recommended for that patient.
    • Highlight positive experiences you or your pharmacy have had with the vaccine, showing the benefits.
    • Address questions and concerns about safety and effectiveness.
    • Remind patients that vaccines protect them and others from the spread of serious illnesses.
    • Explain the potential costs of not being vaccinated, both financially and in terms of health effects.

You can talk to current customers about flu shots and other vaccines, and market to other seniors who may want the protection but may not be your customers yet. Remember, the average Medicare patient filled nearly 50 30-day prescriptions in 2010.7

Find more ways to generate revenue by offering immunizations in:


Jump-Start a Vaccine Program

If your pharmacy isn’t offering immunizations yet, Heath Mart® now offers a Vaccine Starter Kit Program. This new program helps Health Mart pharmacies establish a vaccine practice to diversify their business, including one year of high-touch customer support from a dedicated vaccine representative through all the key steps of developing a vaccination program, including training, regulatory guidelines,* administration, product, reimbursement and marketing. To learn more, read the program overview.

Click on the chart below from the CDC to see recommended immunizations for adults of every age.



1 “Baby Boomers Retire,” Pew Research Center, Dec. 29, 2010. LINK
2 “Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices Recommended Immunization Schedule for Adults Aged 19 Years or Older: United States, 2015,” Annals of Internal Medicine, Feb. 3, 2015. LINK
3 “ACIP Recommends Routine PCV13 Immunization for Adults 65 and Older,” AAFP News, Aug. 27, 2014. LINK
4 “Your Medicare Coverage: Pneumococcal Shots,” LINK
5 “Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine Information Statement,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, April 24, 2015. LINK
6 “Now You Need Two Pneumonia Vaccine Shots, But New One May Be Harder to Find,” The Dallas Morning News, Nov. 7, 2014. LINK
7 “Prescription Drug Use Among Medicare Patients Highly Inconsistent,” Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Oct. 15, 2013. LINK


* All regulatory information and drafted collaborative practice agreements are provided to pharmacies from a third party, Bula Law.