Immunizations Are Not Just For Kids
When you think of getting a vaccination shot, do you immediately remember your childhood? It’s not surprising. After all, one of Normal Rockwell’s most famous paintings is a boy waiting in the doctor’s office, looking at the posted medicine license while the practitioner readies a shot. But the truth is: vaccines protect everyone in every stage of life.
As we age, many of the immunizations from our youth wear off. More importantly, our immune systems grow weaker, making us vulnerable to diseases and complications from those diseases. Those with chronic health conditions are particularly at risk.
So, which vaccines are recommended for older adults and seniors?
- Influenza (or Flu) vaccines defend against contracting the most likely strain of flu for the upcoming season; all vaccines protect against four different types of flu viruses and should been obtained annually. Each year millions of people get the flu with hundreds of thousands of people becoming hospitalized or dying from flu-related causes.
- Pneumococcal disease is most common in young children but can be deadly for those 65 and over. The disease can range from ear and sinus infections to pneumonia and bloodstream complications. There are four different types of vaccines based on age and medical history. Studies have shown that one of the vaccines (PCV13) protects 75% of seniors against invasive pneumococcal disease and prevents pneumococcal pneumonia about 50% of the time.
- COVID-19 vaccines have prevented more than 18 million hospitalizations and more than 3 million deaths in the U.S. since their introduction. Covid-19 is respiratory disease and older adults are more likely to get sick from it, including serious illness and death. The recommendations for vaccine doses and boosters have recently been updated; contact your medical provider to determine what vaccine version you should get.
- Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (Td or Tdap) vaccine protects against the bacteria which cause breathing and heart rhythm problems, lockjaw, and whooping cough. Most individual receive their first vaccination in childhood; however, the protection doesn’t last. Everyone should get a booster shot every ten years or if there is a wound injury.
- Shingles (herpes zoster) is a rash of blisters with pain sometimes described as an intense burning sensation; this pain can last for months or even years after the rash goes away. Approximately 1 million people get shingles each year; if you’ve ever had chickenpox, you can get shingles. For adults 50 and over, the Shingrix shingles vaccine is at least 91% effective. The vaccine is given in two shots spaced out between two and six months apart.
- Respiratory syncytial (RSV) is a common respiratory virus which usually only causes mild, cold-like symptoms. But RSV can be serious, especially for older adults, including bronchiolitis and pneumonia. Each year RSV leads to approximately up to120,000 hospitalizations and 10,000 deaths among adults 65 and older. A new vaccine has recently been approved by the FDA to combat the virus which reduced lower respiratory tract disease risk by over 82%. Your doctor can advise on availability.
Immunizations protect individuals and communities. In fact, by protecting yourself, you are also protecting your family, friends, and neighbors. So go get your shots and reward yourself with a lollypop — for the kid inside.
Source: IlluminAge AgeWise with information from Norman Rockwell Museum, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Commonwealth Fund, and the Food and Drug Administration.