August is National Immunization Awareness Month, a perfect opportunity to make sure you are up to date with the recommended vaccines. As we age, our immune systems may become slower to respond, making us more susceptible to illnesses. This is why it’s so critical that everyone – but especially older adults – stay current with their vaccines.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) generally recommends that adults stay current on five vaccines: influenza (flu), shingles, tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough (TDAP), pneumococcal, and COVID-19. However, it’s important to remember that health care isn’t a one size fits all – different vaccines may be needed based on age, travel, and other factors. Always talk to your doctor to see which vaccines are recommended for you.
Learn more about these vaccines and the illnesses they protect against.
- INFLUENZA (FLU) VACCINE – Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory sickness caused by a virus that infects the nose, throat, and lungs. Complications from the flu can happen at any age. However, according to the CDC, people 65 years and older, people with chronic medical conditions (such as diabetes, asthma, or heart disease), pregnant women, and young children are at higher risk. Your annual flu shot can reduce flu illnesses, doctor’s visits, missed work and school, and prevent hospitalizations.
- SHINGLES VACCINE – Shingles is a viral infection caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Shingles isn’t life-threatening, but it can be painful. Shingles is more common in older adults and those with weakened immune systems, which is why the CDC recommends that adults over 50 receive the shingles vaccine.
- TETANUS, DIPHTHERIA, AND WHOOPING COUGH (TDAP) VACCINE –Tetanus (sometimes called lockjaw), diphtheria (an illness that can affect the tonsils, throat, nose, or skin), and pertussis (whooping cough) are diseases caused by bacteria that can lead to serious illness and even death. The CDC recommends that adults get a Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) or Td (tetanus, diphtheria) booster shot every ten years.
- PNEUMOCOCCAL VACCINE – Pneumococcal disease is a name for any infection caused by bacteria called streptococcus pneumoniae or pneumococcus. These types of infections can range from ear and sinus infections to pneumonia and bloodstream infections. According to the CDC, Pneumococcal disease can be a serious condition. It’s common in young children, but older adults are at greatest risk of illness and death. The best way to prevent pneumococcal disease is to stay up to date on your vaccine.
- COVID-19 VACCINE – COVID-19 is a contagious disease that often causes respiratory symptoms that can feel like a cold, the flu, or pneumonia. Adults over 50 are more likely to need hospitalization or intensive care. Staying up to date with your COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to protect yourself.
Vaccines have saved millions of lives. They are one of the best defenses we have against infectious diseases. The easiest way to ensure you are protected is to schedule regular checkups with your doctor. Regular checkups can help identify potential health issues before they start or early on, which can often lead to more treatment options.
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