What Immunizations Should Seniors Receive?
New mothers often do extensive research before vaccinating their baby. But the vast majority of parents (between 82 and 93 percent, depending on the vaccination) do, ultimately, opt to immunize their children against deadly childhood diseases.
Often, though, caregivers of aging parents are unaware of or forget about the importance of vaccines for seniors.
Many diseases, including pneumonia, shingles, and influenza, can be especially dangerous for seniors. That’s why it’s important to speak to a doctor about recommended vaccines for older adults.
Here’s a list of some vaccines to ask about, based on advice from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Vaccines.gov.
Vaccines for Older Adults to Consider
The Flu Vaccine
While flu season varies regionally, it typically occurs in fall and winter months. That’s why it’s best to get the flu vaccine in early October, as soon as it becomes available. Experts say it can take up to two weeks for immunity to begin.
The CDC recommends everyone over the age of six months be vaccinated against the influenza virus, but it’s especially important for seniors. The flu can worsen existing medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, and heart conditions.
Additionally, because seniors may have weaker immune systems to fight the flu, the virus can lead to other complications. The CDC estimates that between 80 and 90-percent of flu-related deaths occur in seniors.
With flu vaccines readily available in many pharmacies, walk-in clinics, and at the doctor’s office, a flu shot is an easy insurance policy to reduce your risk of getting sick.
Adults over the age of 60 should be vaccinated for shingles every five years, the CDC recommends.
Even if an adult has had shingles once, they can be vaccinated against future occurrences.
Shingles is a painful skin rash caused by the same virus as chicken pox (varicella). Without the vaccine, the risk of getting shingles increases as a person ages.
Tetanus, Diptheria, Pertussis
The Tdap shot
combines protection against three dangerous diseases: tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. The vaccine is recommended for adults every 10 years.
The incidence of pertussis (whooping cough) may be rising amongst seniors, in part due to a drop in “herd immunity” as some parents opt not to vaccinate their children. It may also be because the protection from an older adult’s childhood vaccines has worn off.
Pertussis is one of the few childhood illnesses on the rise in recent years. Since complications can include pneumonia, broken ribs, and even death, it’s important to protect yourself and your loved ones against this disease.
The pneumococcal vaccine
protects against four dangerous bacterial infections:
- pneumococcal pneumonia, which affects the respiratory system
- pneumococcal meningitis, an infection of the brain and spinal cord
- pneumococcal bacteremia, a bloodstream infection
- pneumococcal otitis media, a middle ear infection that can cause deafness
Adults over the age of 65 and others determined to be at high risk should receive the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23) to prevent against pneumococcal infections. These infections may have become resistant to certain antibiotics used to treat them in the past, so prevention is key.
Other Vaccines for Seniors
Seniors who spend a lot of time around infants, who are traveling, or are at high-risk of certain diseases due to a weakened immune system may benefit from other vaccinations.
It’s important to speak to a health care provider and determine the best vaccine schedule for yourself or a loved one.
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