August is National Immunization Month—an annual observance to highlight the importance of vaccination for people of all ages, as it is an ideal time for families to ensure their loved ones are protected from serious illnesses for the upcoming year.
As you age, you’re more susceptible to infections because your immune system functionality steadily decreases and comorbid conditions—such as arthritis and diabetes—make you more prone to illnesses. Having a weaker immune system causes (preventable) illnesses, such as Influenza and Pneumonia, to be deadly. According to Aging Research, over half of the hospitalizations from Influenza are from the age group of 65 years and older.
It’s important older adults are aware of the possible outcomes from not being current on vaccinations, so they can be as healthy as possible and avoid preventable illnesses. Learn more about how to practice health and independence by staying current on your vaccinations, and recommended immunizations for older adults, below.
Recommended Immunizations for Older Adults
More commonly known as the flu—Influenza is a viral infection that affects your respiratory system. It is extremely contagious and can cause various symptoms, such as headaches, cough, sore throat, etc. The CDC recommends you get a flu vaccine every year, especially when you are over the age of 65.
Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis
Although somewhat rare, these three infections can be potentially life-threatening. Diphtheria and Pertussis (whooping cough) are typically spread through coughing or sneezing, whereas Tetanus (lockjaw) is spread through a cut or wound on the body. Thankfully, since vaccinations were developed for these three specific bacteria, Tetanus and Diphtheria outbreaks have decreased by almost 99 percent, and Pertussis decreased by almost 80 percent, according to MedlinePlus. The vaccination, Tdap, protects against Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis. There is also a TD booster that you should get every 10 years that protects against Tetanus and Diphtheria.
Caused by the same virus as Chickenpox, Shingles is a painful skin rash. You can develop Shingles more than once, so even if you have already had it, you should still get the vaccine.
There are two possible recommendations from the CDC for the Shingles vaccination—get two doses of RZV when you are 50 or older; or, get one dose of ZVL when you are 60 or older—regardless of if you have already had Shingles.
Pneumonia is an infection that affects the lungs, causing them to inflame and fill with fluid. There are two types of vaccines for Pneumonia. You should get a dose of each at separate times if you are 65 years of age or older.
Chickenpox is a highly contagious infection that causes blistering on the skin and intense itching. You should get the Chickenpox vaccination if you did not get it as a child.
Meningococcus is a bacterium that causes meningitis. There are two types of Meningococcal vaccines. You may need one or both of them, depending on your health condition.
Hepatitis A is a viral infection that causes fever and jaundice. It is extremely rare and preventable through vaccination. You should get the Hepatitis A Vaccination if you did not get it as a child.
Also preventable by vaccination, Hepatitis B is a liver infection that causes fever and jaundice. Like Hepatitis A, you should get the Hepatitis B Vaccination if you did not get it as a child.
Consult with Your Doctor
Health conditions, vaccination history, and many other factors play an important role in whether you should get a certain vaccination. Although this article gives you part of the knowledge you need to understand vaccinations and their effect on older adults, always consult with your doctor to determine which vaccinations you should get and when.
Be Prepared with a Medical Alert System
It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Consider getting a medical alert system so you have instant access to help in the case of an emergency. Vaccinations help prevent illnesses, but unfortunately, they can’t protect against all health risks and possible accidents, such as a fall. A Medical Guardian medical alert device ensures you can call for help at any sign of danger or injury throughout the U.S., without the need for a cell phone.