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Beyond the Flu Shot: What Immunizations Do Seniors Need?

Beyond the Flu Shot: What Immunizations Do Seniors Need?

<!–[CDATA[Aging generally causes the immune system to weaken. That puts older adults at an increased risk for health issues, like pneumonia, shingles, and the influenza virus. Fortunately, there are steps to take that can boost a senior’s immunity. From flu shots to the shingles vaccine, pumping up the immune system starts when seniors talk with their primary care physician.


Seniors Need Immunizations Too

While children typically have a standard immunization protocol to follow, older adults don’t often know there are vaccines they need too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that as many as 70,000 adults a year lose their lives from vaccine-preventable illnesses.

If your senior’s primary care physician doesn’t bring up the topic of immunizations, encourage them to inquire about what the CDC recommends. There are a number of immunizations that seniors should know about:

  • Influenza vaccine: The flu is more than just an annoyance for older adults. It can be deadly. Seniors make up more than half of all hospital flu admissions, and nearly 90% of flu-related deaths every year. Having an annual flu shot is the best way to prevent contracting the illness. If an older adult does come down with the flu, the vaccine may help minimize the severity of the symptoms. Early October is considered to be an ideal time to receive a flu shot.
  • Shingles vaccine: The chicken pox virus can cause a painful skin rash known as shingles. It creates skin blisters that usually take weeks or even months to heal. In 2017, the CDC changed its recommendation for what type of shingles vaccine older adults should receive. Instead of the Zostavax® immunization, they now suggest Shingrix. It is recommended for people over the age of 50. Shingrix is more than 90% effective at preventing shingles, as opposed to the 51% for Zostavax®. Shingrix also helps prevent a painful shingles complication known as postherpetic neuralgia.
  • Pneumonia vaccine: Most seniors know pneumonia can be a serious health risk. Some aren’t familiar with the vaccine that can assist in preventing it. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends older adults get two vaccines—one year apart—to better protect them from sepsis (a bacterial infection in the blood), meningitis, and pneumonia. Typically, the Prevnar 13® vaccine is given first, then the Pneumovax®23 vaccine 12 months later. Because almost 50,000 seniors lose their lives each year to pneumonia, it’s important to share this information with the older adults in your life.
  • Tdap booster: Tdap stands for tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis. This one-time shot helps protect against all three illnesses. This is an important one for older adults who spend time around infants because pertussis, also known as whooping cough, can be deadly for babies.
  • Hepatitis A and B: Finally, remind your older family members to talk with their physician about the hepatitis vaccine. It’s often recommended to seniors with chronic health conditions and those who are exposed to large groups of people on a routine basis.

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