Most people believe that the flu is a stomach bug or a bad cold. But it is dangerous and can be a fatal-respiratory virus. In fact, anywhere from 12,000 to 56,000 people die due to the flu each year in the US, and hundreds of thousands are hospitalized. Many of these deaths are in those with pre-existing medical conditions.
However, healthy individuals are not excluded from the list. The flu is a big deal, and the vaccine is recommended for everyone over 6 months of age, with very few exceptions. Grandparents especially should get the flu vaccine each year, not only to protect themselves but to protect the youngest members of their families. In fact, until babies receive their first dose at 6 months, they are at the mercy of those around them to get vaccinated and keep them safe.
2. Pertussis Vaccine aka Tdap
If you have a grandchild on the way, you might have already been asked to get the Tdap vaccine, which can protect against three diseases, including pertussis or 'whooping cough'. This disease is frequently under-diagnosed in adults because, after childhood, it tends to have milder symptoms.
Many older adults don't realize they are infected, and often dismiss any signs of infection as allergies. But even if symptoms are mild, or absent, you can still pass the bacteria to other people, including to vulnerable newborns for whom pertussis can be dangerous. In fact, half of all babies under a year old who get pertussis need to be hospitalized. The first dose of the pertussis vaccine is given at two months of age, but the series actually includes multiple doses over a span of years, and it's not 100% effective. Even with the vaccine, a small number of vaccinated infants can still get sick.
Pneumococcus - a bacterium that can cause pneumonia, among other things, can often be passed from young kids to older adults. In children, pneumococcus can lead to mild illnesses like ear infections, or a more serious thing, like meningitis. But, in older adults, pneumococcus is a leading cause of pneumonia which results in an estimated 900,000 cases each year in the United States alone.
While more than 90% of U.S. children under age 3 are fully vaccinated against pneumococcus, the rate is lower in adults over 65. Depending on your age or health status, there are two types of pneumococcal vaccines, and depending on your age or health status, you will need both of them.
4. Herpes Zoster aka Shingles Vaccine
If you're over 60, you should look into getting the shingles shot, and this is true even if you've already had shingles at least once. While you can't actually give shingles to your grandchildren, you can give them chicken pox. How? The two diseases are caused by the same virus. When you are infected with chickenpox - which almost everyone before 1980 had - the virus can stay dormant in your body and reactivate later in life causing shingles.
And when you have shingles, you can spread the virus to someone who hasn't had chickenpox or who hasn't been vaccinated against it yet. Both diseases cause rashes, though the shingles rash is often more painful and tends to be isolated to one side of your body, or along your nerves. Sometimes, the pain from shingles can last for weeks, months, or even years after the rash goes away.