Immunizations: What Seniors Should Know

Posted by Hilary Young on August 17, 2017

Immunizations: What Seniors Should Know

As the summer begins to wane, marketing materials promoting the flu shot for seniors seem to be everywhere. And with flu season right around the corner, it makes perfect sense: doctors and pharmacists want to make sure that seniors are protected every winter since the flu can sometimes be deadly for people over the age of 65.

Many physicians also tell their senior patients to get immunized for other diseases each season. In addition to the flu vaccine, doctors may also recommend a pneumonia vaccine as well as shingles and DTap. But is that just a marketing ploy, or are all the recommended vaccines for adults necessary?

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Vaccines For Adults That Can Save Your Life

Different vaccines are recommended for both children and adults depending on the strength of your immune system, your overall health and how susceptible you may be to contracting a specific bug or virus. Since many older adults have chronic health issues, such as heart disease or kidney failure, which can greatly suppress their immune systems, there are four primary vaccines for adults that are seen as being necessary:

Shingles (Zoster) Virus

Shingles is a virus that typically only affects older adults, as it stems from the chickenpox virus and can lie dormant in your body for years. The Centers for Disease Control reports that the risk of developing shingles “increases sharply after 50 years of age.”

This is also why the CDC recommends that adults 60 and over receive the Zoster vaccine, which is the medical term for the shingles virus. Out of the nearly 1 million American cases of shingles each year, roughly half of them are aged 60 and above.

Pneumococcal Viruses

While many different factors can cause pneumonia, including the flu virus, the most common cause of pneumonia in seniors is a type of bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae, also known as pneumococcal disease. Pneumococcal disease can also cause sepsis or meningitis, both of which are life threatening, especially at an advanced age.

While there is no “pneumonia vaccine,” the pneumococcal vaccine can help protect you against two different strains of pneumococcal bacteria, the one that causes lung infections that lead to pneumonia and the one that causes meningitis. The CDC recommends this vaccine for “all adults over 65 years old, and for adults younger than 65 years who have certain chronic health conditions.”

Flu

The flu might seem harmless, since it comes around every season and hasn’t been eradicated yet, but the flu virus can actually be fatal to older adults. According to the CDC, “over 60 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations occur in people 65 years and older.” This is why the flu shot for seniors is so important.

Although many people might write off the flu as simply a “very bad cold,” in reality, the flu can be dangerous, especially for those who have weakened immune systems and chronic health conditions, like COPD, heart disease and diabetes. The CDC reports complications from the flu include “bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.” Again, since there is no “pneumonia vaccine,” opting into the flu shot for seniors can help prevent hospitalization for those over 65.

TDap

The TDap vaccine is actually a vaccine for three different types of potentially life-threatening bacterial disease: tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough). Tetanus creates painful muscle tightness and stiffness throughout the body, diphtheria can lead to breathing problems and paralysis, and pertussis is severe coughing that can lead to breathing problems and even pneumonia.

In addition to receiving the TDap as a precaution for your own health, if you are a new grandparent or planning to spend time around little babies, physicians will also recommend that you receive this vaccine to help protect the little ones.

A Safety Net After Being Vaccinated

While vaccines are an effective method of prevention, they are not 100% guaranteed. Making sure that you have access to help should you fall ill should be a high priority, especially if you live alone. Thankfully, with Medical Guardian medical alert systems, you never have to worry about falling ill while home alone. Our 24/7 monitoring services will be there to lend a helping hand when you need one the most.


TAGS: pneumonia vaccine flu shot for seniors vaccines for adults