Before my grandchildren returned to school, my adult children were gathering supplies, shopping for new clothes, and making doctor appointments to update physical exams and vaccinations.
That prompted me to consider the importance of updating immunizations for my husband and myself, as well as making sure our senior loved ones did the same. After all, aging adults and seniors require vaccinations, too, because as we age, our immune systems can weaken making us more susceptible to contracting viruses and diseases.
Because August is Immunization Awareness Month, I want to highlight the most important immunizations seniors need to guard against serious illnesses.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all adults ages 65 and older make sure they are up to date on the following vaccines:
COVID-19 – Please be aware that COVID is here to stay, and a new variant is actively circulating throughout the nation as we speak, so staying current with the latest vaccine is your best safeguard against serious illness, hospitalization, or death.
CDC says, “On June 15, 2023, an FDA advisory committee met to talk about COVID-19 vaccines and additional strains of the COVID-19 virus. They recommended that COVID-19 vaccines should be updated to provide protection against the Omicron variant XBB.1.5 for use by the fall of 2023. People aged 65 years and older may get 1 additional dose of COVID-19 vaccine 4 or more months after the 1st updated COVID-19 vaccine.”
Influenza/Flu – A common contagious respiratory illness that anyone can get is known as influenza, or the flu. It is caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. The flu presents with mild to severe symptoms which can lead to hospitalization and death.
“Serious problems related to the flu can happen at any age, but some people are a higher risk of developing serious flu-related complications (which) includes people 65 years and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as diabetes, asthma, or heart disease), pregnant women, and young children,” according to CDC.
They recommend, “Everyone 6 months of age and older get a flu vaccine each year. Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations.”
Pneumococcal/Pneumonia – CDC describes pneumococcal disease as “any infection caused by bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae or pneumococcus.”
Adults 65 years or older are at increased risk for pneumococcal disease, especially if they contend with:
- Chronic heart, lung, kidney, or liver disease
- Cochlear implant
- CSF leak
- HIV infection, cancer, solid organ transplant, or another condition or taking medicine that weakens the immune system
- Nephrotic syndrome
- Sickle cell disease, a damaged spleen, or no spleen
- Smoke tobacco products or vape
- Chronic lung illness like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, and asthma
Vaccines are the best way to prevent pneumococcal disease, which is common in young children, but older adults are at greatest risk of serious illness and death.
Shingles (Herpes Zoster) - People develop the painful condition known as shingles when the varicella-zoster virus, which causes chickenpox, reactivates in their bodies after they have already had chickenpox.
CDC recommends two doses of recombinant zoster vaccine (RZV, Shingrix) to prevent shingles and related complications in adults 50 years and older. Shingrix is also recommended for adults 19 years and older who have weakened immune systems because of disease or therapy.
Tdap (Tetanus, Diphtheria, Whooping Cough) or Td (Tetanus and Diphtheria) – Tetanus is an infection caused by a bacterium called clostridium tetani. Spores of tetanus bacteria are everywhere in the environment, including soil, dust, and manure. The spores develop into bacteria when they enter the body.
Diphtheria is a serious infection caused by strains of bacteria called Corynebacterium diphtheriae that make toxins. It can lead to difficulty breathing, heart rhythm issues, and death.
Whooping cough may begin like a common cold, but unlike a cold, the coughing can last for weeks or months. Symptoms of whooping cough usually develop with 5-10 days after coming into contact with the bacteria that caused it. However, sometimes symptoms do not develop for as long as 3 weeks.
CDC recommends all adults who have never received one should get a Tdap shot. This can be given at any time, regardless of when they last got Td. This should be followed by either a Td or Tdap shot every 10 years.
RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) – CDC says respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious. Infants and older adults are more likely to develop severe RSV and need hospitalization.
Each year, it is estimated that between 60,000-160,000 older adults in the United States are hospitalized and 6,000-10,000 die due to RSV infection. Adults at highest risk for severe RSV infection include:
- Older adults
- Adults with chronic heart or lung disease
- Adults with weakened immune systems
- Adults with certain other underlying medical conditions
- Adults living in nursing homes or long-term care facilities
RSV vaccine can help protect adults aged 60 years and older from RSV. Talk to your healthcare provider to see if vaccination is right for you.
I don’t know anyone who likes getting injections, but to protect yourself and your loved ones, these vaccines are necessary to improve your body’s immune response if exposed to the viruses or bacteria within our environment that can cause serious health problems.
A licensed, bonded and insured Home Helpers® caregiver can assist seniors who need transportation assistance to doctor appointments and/or pharmacies to update immunizations, and they can also do much more.
A compassionate, highly trained caregiver can provide a variety of in-home care services for seniors with chronic health conditions, physical constraints, or mental health issues. I am happy to offer a FREE Consultation to discuss specific needs and create a personalized care plan to help make life easier in support of senior health and wellness.
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