Keeping an eye on vaccination is not just for the young, older people need to be immunized too. Vaccines are important for older adults, especially those living in a healthcare setting. As we age, the immune system grows weaker and fighting off infections can become more difficult and could lead to serious complications. If you have a chronic condition like heart disease or diabetes, it can make you more susceptible to illnesses so it is doubly important to protect yourself with regular vaccinations against infections like influenza and pneumonia. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend several vaccinations for adults age 65 and older. To live a healthier life, it’s vital to learn more about these immunizations and when you need to have them.
Ideally, influenza vaccination should occur before flu season begins each October. However, latecomers can still reap the benefits and can experience greater immunity as the season wears on. Only injectable flu vaccines have been approved for use in past seasons, nasal vaccines are not recommended. For adults 65 and older, the CDC recommends a higher dose influenza shot. Older immune systems do not respond as well to a regular flu shot as those of younger people. The higher dose has four times the amount of influenza antigen and is supposed to result in a better immune response for older people. In clinical studies, the high dose vaccine has been found to be more effective in preventing the flu for seniors and lowered the risk of hospital admissions, especially for those living in long-term care facilities.
Streptococcus pneumoniae or pneumococcus is a type of bacteria that can cause a number of health problems including ear and sinus infections, pneumonia and bloodstream infections. Pneumococcal vaccines protect against pneumococcal disease and are recommended for all adults 65 and older. Younger adults with certain chronic health conditions, such as HIV or kidney disease, are also recommended to receive these vaccines. According to the CDC, adults need two types of pneumococcal vaccine— PCV13 and PPSV23. It’s recommended that you talk with a medical professional to determine which vaccines are required and when they should be taken.
Shingles or herpes zoster is a painful rash that appears on the body or face. It’s caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV), the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays inactive and can later reactivate and cause shingles. According to the CDC, about 1 out of every 3 people in the United States will develop shingles in their lifetime. The risk for shingles increases with age and vaccination is recommended for healthy adults 50 years and older. The shingles vaccine protects against shingles and its complications such as severe pain, hearing loss and blindness.
According to the CDC, the tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis vaccine (Tdap) “helps protect against tetanus (lockjaw), diphtheria (a severe infection of the nose, throat, or airway) and pertussis (whooping cough).” Usually, people need one Tdap vaccination in their lifetime and it is most likely given during childhood at around ages 11 or 12. However, older adults who did not receive or complete their childhood Tdap vaccination series will need to be vaccinated. The Td vaccination booster shot does not include pertussis and is given every 10 years to adults.
To learn more about vaccinations for older people and which ones are recommended for you and your health condition, talk with your doctor or health care professional at your next appointment.