It would be easy to think that once we reach adulthood we are done with immunizations. However, the opposite is true. As we reach our senior years immunizations become just as important as they were when we were children. Protecting aging adults from disease is truly a matter of life and death.
For adults over the age of 65 there are three essential vaccines; influenza, pneumonia and shingles. The availability of these vaccines has increased as cities and towns have made them available through Boards of Health, senior centers have opened vaccine clinics, and physicians stock the shingles vaccine more regularly. The administration of these vaccines is covered by Medicare. Here is what you need to know about these three vaccines:
Influenza, Commonly Called the Flu
Influenza can kill. A bad cold and fever is frequently called “the flu”. However, the real influenza hits hard and can kill infants and seniors who have weak or compromised immune systems. In fact, people over the age of 65 account for half of all the hospitalizations for the flu. Scientists try to anticipate the makeup of the flu in order to develop a vaccine that matches it as close to possible. Some years it matches better than others but it is still essential to have the vaccine to lessen the symptoms of influenza.
Pneumonia is Dangerous
Nearly 1 million Americans contract pneumonia each year, and up to 7 percent of them die. Two vaccines protect seniors against pneumococcal disease, which includes pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis. While pneumonia is more common, meningitis and sepsis are more deadly. There are two different vaccines for pneumonia prevention and they are given at least a year apart. Best practices indicate that having both vaccines provides better protection. Both are covered by Medicare so discuss the vaccines and the timing with the physician.
Zoster Vaccine for Shingles
A single dose of zoster vaccine is recommended for adults aged 60 years and older regardless of whether they report a prior episode of herpes zoster. The zoster vaccine prevents the shingles that is caused by the virus that causes chickenpox. It causes excruciating pain which can persist for months or years in some patients. There is no cure for shingles, however, there is a vaccine to prevent it. The vaccine is recommended for most adults over the age of 60, unless they have complications such as cancer or a weakened immune system. Talk to the doctor and avoid this painful disease.
Memories of Booster Shots
Children have booster shots and seniors need them too. As a senior, it is important to revisit boosters and discuss with your doctor if you need them refreshed. Boosters include the Tdap vaccine that protects against tetanus (lockjaw), diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough). Whooping cough, a respiratory infection involving a harsh, racking cough, is making a comeback with recent U.S. outbreaks.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a chart of adult immunizations that can be downloaded for review. It’s important to ensure that your loved one is kept up to date on these vaccines to ensure that they are protected against life threatening disease.