Newswise — Vaccines are an important part of routine healthcare for adults, seniors and women who are pregnant.

Older adults and seniors need protection against infectious illnesses just like children do. Seniors in particular should be current on their flu, shingles and pneumonia vaccines. These diseases can be especially dangerous for older people with preexisting health conditions.

Why are vaccinations important?

Influenza (flu) Adults over 65 are at high risk for developing flu related complications. Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections are examples of flu-related complications.

The flu also can make chronic health problems worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have the flu, and people with chronic congestive heart failure (CHF) may experience a worsening of this condition triggered by flu. Complications from the flu can results in hospitalization or death.

When should I get the flu vaccine? All children, teenagers, adults and seniors (everyone 6 months of age and older) should get a flu vaccine every year as soon as it becomes available in the community.

Pregnant women should receive the flu shot (during flu season, which is October through May) to help protect against influenza. It can be given at any time during the pregnancy.

Shingles Also known as zoster or herpes zoster, this virus affects an estimated 1 million cases each year in the U.S. Anyone who has recovered from chickenpox may develop shingles; even children can get shingles.

The risk of shingles increases, as you get older. Shingles is a painful rash that develops on one side of the face or body. The rash forms blisters that typically scab over in 7 to 10 days and clear up within 2 to 4 weeks.

Before the rash develops, people often show other signs of shingles, such as pain, itching, or tingling in the area where the rash will develop. This may happen anywhere from 1 to 5 days before the rash appears. Other symptoms of shingles can include fever, headache, chills and upset stomach.

When should I get the shingles vaccine? Your risk of shingles increases as you get older. The vaccine is approved for people 50 years and older but the CDC recommends that people 60 years and older get shingles vaccine. The vaccine has been available since 2006. This vaccine reduces the risk of developing shingles by 51%. The vaccine is recommended regardless of whether there is a history of chicken pox or shingles.

Pneumonia Pneumonia is caused by pneumococcal disease, which can cause severe infections of the lungs (pneumonia), bloodstream (bacteremia), and lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis). Common signs of pneumonia include fever and chills, cough, rapid breathing or difficulty breathing, and chest pain.

Most pneumonia infections are mild. However complications of pneumonia can be severe or even deadly. These include infection of the space between membranes that surround the lungs and chest cavity; inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart; and blockage of the airway that allows air into the lungs, with lung collapse and collection of pus (abscess) in the lungs.

When should I get the pneumococcal vaccine? There are now two pneumococcal vaccines. PREVNAR covers thirteen strains and PCV23 covers twenty-three strains of pneumonia. Both vaccine are only given one time to people that are over the age of 65. Adults between the ages of 19 and 65 with certain conditions that affect the immune system should check with their primary care provider if they should receive the vaccination.

Pertussis (whooping cough) Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, can cause serious and sometimes deadly complications in babies and young children, especially those who are not fully vaccinated. Teens and adults can also get complications from pertussis, however these complications are usually less serious in this older age group, especially in those who have been vaccinated with a pertussis vaccine.

Complications from pertussis can include weight loss, urinary incontinence, loss of consciousness, and rib fractures from severe coughing. More serious complications can also occur. When should I get vaccinated for whooping cough? The whooping cough vaccine is usually given as part of a group of vaccines called Tdap (Tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis) or Td (tetanus-diphtheria booster).

The Tdap vaccine protects against tetanus, whooping cough and diphtheria. Booster doses of Td are recommended every 10 years for adults. However all adults that are 19 years old and older that have never received the Tdap vaccine should receive one dose regardless of the interval from the last tetanus or Td vaccine. Talk to your primary care provider if you have never received the Tdap vaccine.

Pregnant women of all ages should get vaccinated for Tdap (between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy) to help protect against whooping cough

Talk to your primary care provider about what vaccines you may need.