Trix are for kids, but immunizations are for everybody, especially
August is National Immunization Awareness Month — an excellent time
to review what vaccines every older person should receive. Immunization is especially important for the senior population, since the immune system becomes weaker as we age.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all seniors receive the following four vaccines:
1. The Seasonal Flu vaccine
Flu seasons are sometimes better and sometimes worse, but they always target the elderly.
The CDC estimates that in recent years, between half and three-quarters of all hospitalizations due to the flu occurred in those 65 and older.
Seniors aren’t only at risk of getting sicker from the flu, they’re also at greater risk of dying: the CDC reports that between 71% and 85% of all flu-related deaths occur in the senior population.
It is important for seniors to get a flu shot every year, for two reasons:
First, immunity wears off over the course of the year.
Second, a new vaccine is formulated every year, based on the strain of flu that is expected that year.
There are many ways to be vaccinated against the flu, but seniors are advised to receive the injectable vaccine, rather than the nasal spray. Of the many types of injectable vaccine, the CDC recommends the high dose vaccine or the adjuvanted flu vaccine (Fluad) for seniors.
Check with your doctor to see which is better for you.
2. The Tdap or Td vaccine
The Tdap vaccine protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough).
Everyone needs to receive a Tdap once in their lifetime to protect against pertussis. Most seniors should have received one already, but since the pertussis vaccine was not in regular use until the 1940s, there is a chance it was missed.
The Td vaccine, which protects against tetanus and diphtheria, needs to be repeated every ten years.
3. The Shingles vaccine
Shingles is caused by reactivation of the varicella-zoster (chickenpox) virus, and only occurs in those who have already had chickenpox.
Nearly one-third of all Americans develop shingles, and one-half of those over 80 will develop it.
Shingles is not only painful, it is dangerous. See our post, Shingles: A Serious Risk in the Elderly, to learn more.
4. The Pneumococcal vaccine
Pneumococcal diseases include pneumonia, meningitis, and infections of the blood stream.
Immunization against pneumococcal diseases requires two types of vaccine, PCV13 and PPSV23, which are given in sequence.
The CDC recommends that all adults receive pneumococcal immunization, with those over 65 receiving them in a different sequence than those under 65.
The precise sequencing of these vaccines is complex, and includes consideration of other health conditions. Speak with your healthcare provider about how to protect yourself, given your personal health history.
People with certain chronic health conditions, such as asplenia, asthma, diabetes, heart disease, HIV, kidney disease, liver disease, lung disease, or a weakened immune system are susceptible to other diseases, and the CDC recommends that they receive additional vaccines.
Speak with your healthcare provider about the vaccines you or your loved one needs to stay healthy.