What Makes Vaccines Important?
Research shows that a number of older adults aren’t getting the vaccines they need to help reduce their risk of serious illnesses. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2017 report showed that 43% of older adults (age 65 and older) aren’t up to date on their tetanus shots. Some seniors may feel that they are already covered, by way of past immunizations, or that they needn’t worry since they haven’t had the flu or other illnesses in years. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
With age, we become much more susceptible to serious illnesses and infections (due to a weakened immune system), and they can strike seemingly out of nowhere – even for the healthiest of people. Influenza or pneumonia can take their toll on younger adults, but the setback is often temporary. For seniors, the complications that arise from these illnesses can be life-threatening and lead to hospitalization or death.
Are all vaccines 100% effective? While they may not be guaranteed protection, vaccines represent the best form of risk reduction, and can help make symptoms less severe for those who do come down with the respective illness. Immunizations can make a fairly significant difference in a senior’s physical wellbeing. Below are recommend vaccinations seniors should consider, upon thorough discussion with their physician.
The CDC estimates that over 70% of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations are for those 65 years of age and older.
- Influenza vaccine: As mentioned previously, even the healthiest of older adults can come down with the flu. And for those managing chronic conditions, complications from the respiratory illness can easily lead to hospitalization. Because of these risks, seniors may want to consider the Fluzone High-Dose vaccine, which contains a higher number of antigens than standard flu shots. Two other vaccines that may offer greater protection include Fluad and Flublok Quadrivalent. Sometime before October – the beginning of flu season – seniors should talk with their physician and other healthcare professionals about which influenza vaccine is most appropriate.
- Shingles vaccine: Also known as herpes zoster, shingles is a painful skin rash that occurs when the virus responsible for chickenpox reactivates. In addition to the formation of blisters, approximately 25% of people with shingles also develop what’s called postherpetic neuralgia, a nerve pain that can last for months or even years. There are two vaccines for shingles. The first is Zostavax, which reduces the risk of the disease by approximately 50%. Just this year, however, a second vaccine has been approved in Canada called Shingrix, which is 90% effective in shingles risk reduction. The CDC now recommends the vaccine for everyone 50 years and older, but one of the downsides of Shingrix is that the injection is noticeably more painful that Zostavax, and can deter people from coming back for the second (and essential) dose. Many medical professionals note that the temporary pain is a small price to pay for increased protection against shingles.
- Tdap vaccine: Often given within a single shot, the vaccinations for tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis are essential for health and wellbeing. For those who received the Tdap vaccine when they were younger, or if it’s been more than ten years, getting one as soon as possible should be a priority. Seniors who have had a recent cut, wound, or burn should also safeguard against tetanus (which enters through the bloodstream) with a tetanus booster.
- Pneumococcal vaccine: Pneumococcal bacteria, which can lead to the development of pneumonia and meningitis, is responsible for numerous senior hospitalizations and deaths each year. The CDC recommends that seniors get the two available vaccinations: PCV-13 (pneumococcal conjugate vaccine) and PPSV-23 (pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine). They should get PCV-13 first, followed by PPSV-23 about twelve month later.
Comfort Keepers® Can Help
Maintaining senior health and wellbeing is a priority for the team at Comfort Keepers®. Our caregivers can assist in providing seniors with transportation to and from the doctor’s office or clinics to receive their vaccinations, or to talk with their physician about which vaccines are most appropriate. Our caregivers can also work to promote a safe and healthy lifestyle, inside and outside the home. Contact your local Comfort Keepers office today to learn more.
Consumer Reports. “The 4 Vaccines Older Adults Need” by Hallie Levine. Web. 2017.
People. “What to Know About the New Shingles Vaccine – And Why You Should Get It ASAP if You’re Over 50”
by Julie Mazziotta. Web. 2018.
National Council on Aging. “NCOA Blog: Healthy Living – Healthy Aging in Winter and Beyond: 4 Important Vaccines
for Seniors Covered by Medicare” by Healthy Aging Team. Web. 2017.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Vaccine Information for Adults.” Web. 2018.
AgingCare.com. “Recommended Vaccines for the Elderly” by Anne-Mario Botek. Web. 2018.