Vaccination In The Elderly

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a little over 2.5 million persons aged 65 years and older die every year in the United States. Statistics of the same source show a significant percentage of these deaths are due to infectious causes such as influenza and pneumonia. Although many people think of vaccines as being for only children, adults can also benefit greatly from this method of protection from diseases. The elderly – those 65 years and older – can especially benefit from vaccination for several reasons. If you fall into that age group or know someone that does, keep reading to understand the importance of seniors keeping up with their vaccine shots.

Vaccination is an age-old process of improving the body’s immunity against infectious diseases by receiving preparations known as vaccines. A vaccine usually contains a killed or weakened version of the infectious microorganisms, and by administering it to a person, their immune system develops antibodies. These antibodies can help protect the body if the person comes in contact with the same microorganism at a later time.

Receiving recommended vaccines is critical to maintaining and improving the health of senior citizens. Vaccination is an important topic to discuss with your doctor if you’re aged 65 years and older, and you should define the vaccines to receive and schedule for receiving them. Vaccination is very important in the elderly for the following reasons:

  • Immunity gained in your younger years would have faded over time, leaving you vulnerable to infections
  • New diseases – the COVID-19 virus, for example – have been discovered since you were immunized as a child, and new vaccines have developed in that timeframe
  • Senior citizens are at great risk of developing life-threatening complications if they get infected with diseases like meningitis or tetanus
  • Chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes mellitus are common at this age, increasing the risk of serious manifestations of common infections.

Pneumococcal Vaccine

The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine, referred to as Pneumovax 23, protects against 23 serotypes of Streptococcus pneumoniae. This bacteria is responsible for meningitis, pneumonia, and otitis media infections. It is especially important in the elderly with chronic illnesses to prevent serious complications.

Influenza Vaccine

Flu-related deaths and hospitalizations are higher in the elderly than in any other age group. Thus, seniors need to stay up to date with the yearly flu vaccines approved for each flu season.

Zoster Vaccine

Shingles is caused by the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus that causes chickenpox. It is important for the elderly to get the zoster vaccine even if they don’t recall having chickenpox when they were younger. This is because you could have been exposed to the virus, which would then go on to live in your body, dormant till it’s reactivated by weakened immunity. The vaccine can help prevent shingles and adverse events in the elderly.

Diphtheria-Pertussis-Tetanus Vaccine

This combination vaccine offers protection against three bacterial diseases that could pose a great threat to your health if you are a senior. Ensure you get this vaccine to protect yourself against whooping cough, diphtheria, and tetanus infections.

COVID-19 Vaccine

It’s no secret that the elderly have been the age group most affected by the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. Hence, the elderly should not hesitate to get the vaccine and booster shots to increase their chances of staying COVID-19 free.

In conclusion, vaccination is very important for seniors. Discuss your full medical history with your doctor so they can determine the vaccines that are perfectly safe for you to take and draw up an appropriate schedule for you to get them. 

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