ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The world is anxiously awaiting the coronavirus vaccine. In the meantime, health experts and advocates for older Americans say there are other immunizations that shouldn't be put off, like those for the flu, pneumonia, and shingles.

What You Need To Know

  • Flu, shingles, and pneumonia vaccines encouraged for people 65 and older

  • Nurse practitioner says this can help prevent hospital overcrowding during pandemic

  • AARP's director for the state of Florida encourages people in this age group not to wait on immunizations

"One of the things that we've heard from AARP members is that there is some temptation to wait until the COVID vaccine comes out in order to get immunized for these other really important illnesses, and that's a mistake," said AARP's state director for Florida, Jeff Johnson.

Nurse Practitioner Amber Watson said she talks with every patient she sees at the CVS Minute Clinic on 9th St. N. about what vaccines might be right for them.

"We are seeing a lot of individuals who are wanting to protect themselves," Watson said of this fall's demand.



Nurse Practitioner Amber Watson (Spectrum News)

She said that's especially good news when it comes to the 65-plus age group, one of the populations most at risk for severe COVID-19 cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that people in this group accounted for more than half of flu hospitalizations during the 2018-2019 season. 

"It's really important to take flu off the table as much as possible so that we can free up those emergency rooms and critical care units so they can take care of COVID-19 patients," Watson said.

She said the pneumonia vaccine can prevent more than just hospital overcrowding this year.

"We are also seeing COVID-19 patients have pneumonia as a complication with that, and that can impede their recovery," she said.

According to data from the National Health Interview Survey, in 2015, 69% of adults ages 65 and older had gotten the flu vaccine and 63% had gotten the pneumococcal vaccine. When it comes to shingles, just more than 34% were vaccinated - a sign of some of the gaps in coverage that remain.

"When you think about it, regardless of your age, you flip on your TV, you see ads about getting your flu shot," Johnson said. "You don't necessarily get that about the shingles vaccine or even the pneumococccal vaccine. I think it's just the public education campaign hasn't been quite as successful when it comes to those other shots."

Johnson said AARP has been hosting virtual town halls with health experts to get important information to members during the pandemic.

"Over the last month, most of that discussion has been about vaccines," he said. 

While part of that has focused on the eventual COVID-19 vaccine, he said experts have stressed to members the importance of getting more routine immunizations.

"It is very, very important to encourage grandparents, parents, spouse, if they are 65 and older, to get their flu shot, the pneumonia vaccine, and then, 50 and older, to get the shingles vaccine," said Watson.

Watson said CVS Minute Clinic accepts most major insurances. Walk-ins are accepted or appointments can be made at