Did you know August is National Immunization Awareness Month? Relevar Home Care would like to remind seniors and their families of the importance of staying up to date on vaccines. Flu and pneumonia are among the top health concerns for the elderly; according to the CDC (center for disease control and prevention) flu and pneumonia are combined to rank seventh on the list of leading causes of death for those over the age of 65. It is important to stay up to date for seniors because some of their vaccinations could have been when they were younger, their immunity faded, or there have been new vaccines developed since their last immunizations. According to Dr. Andrew Duxbury, an associate professor in the gerontology, geriatrics, and palliative care division at the University of Alabama; age related chronic diseases and weakened immune systems also make seniors more susceptible to vaccine-preventable diseases. When older people get the flu they are more likely to get other infections such as pneumonia, that in turn can spiral out of control and for a frail older person they could lose ability to talk and do for themselves, can cause disabilities and increase their chances of falls or injuries. Just think decreasing your loved ones chance of contracting the flu or pneumonia, and other preventable diseases is as simple as getting a shot or two in the arm.
Here is a list of recommended vaccines for seniors:
- Tetanus/Diphtheria/Pertussis: The vaccinations for tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis are often given as a single shot. It’s recommended that everyone, regardless of their age, get a tetanus/diphtheria booster shot at least every ten years, or after possible exposure to the virus that causes tetanus. Tetanus typically enters a person’s bloodstream through an open wound and can be deadly, so it’s recommended that even previously vaccinated individuals get a tetanus booster after a severe cut, puncture wound, or burn.
- Influenza: What may seem like a harmless virus can quickly become a serious health issue for the elderly. The flu is deadliest among the senior population; over 60 percent of seasonal-flu hospitalizations are seniors, and between 80 and 90 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths occurred in those over 65. Seniors should get the flu vaccine annually, as each year the vaccine is designed for the most common strain. There is also a senior-specific injection that is designed to be a higher dose, and it won’t expose seniors to the live virus like a nasal spray vaccine would.
- Shingles: Shingles is more common (and severe) among the elderly and people with compromised immune systems, so anyone over the age of 60 years should be vaccinated. Shingles generally manifests as a blistering skin rash, but it can also cause additional problems, such as: fever, hearing loss, and vision problems. A senior can (and should) get vaccinated, even if they’ve already had an outbreak of shingles.
- Chickenpox: If an older adult hasn’t had chickenpox, or the chickenpox vaccine, it’s recommended that they undergo a preventative, 2-dose shot regimen. However, seniors with immune system deficiencies, cancer, or who are on prescription medications that inhibit the immune system, should not get the vaccine until they talk to their doctor.
- Pneumococcal: Pneumonia is responsible for 60,000 deaths every year, and seniors are more likely to contract it. The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV) is effective against the 23 most common strains of bacteria that cause pneumonia. This is a one-time vaccination, but those over 65 can get a one-time repeat vaccination once five years have elapsed since their original shot (and they were younger than 65 at the time).
- Measle/Mumps/Rubella (MMR): Recommendations regarding older adults receiving the MMR vaccine vary, though the issue is becoming a greater concern, given the increasing numbers of unvaccinated American children who are now contracting measles. According to the CDC, people born before 1957 were exposed to measles epidemics and have thus likely developed an immunity to the disease, so they do not need to undergo vaccination when they’re older. However, individuals who received an inactivated measles vaccine in the 1960s or were never vaccinated when they were a child are recommended to get another round of shots, as is anyone born after 1957 that has no record of ever receiving the MMR vaccine.
Please talk with your doctor or other healthcare professional to find out which vaccines are recommended for you at your next appointment. Make sure to talk about the ones that are right for you because some adults with specific health conditions should not get some vaccines or should wait to get them. You can always visit the CDC website to get any other information that you may need.
If you or a loved one needs information on immunizations or transportation to get you to an appointment please contact Relevar Home Care at (586) 493-7677. We service many metro Detroit counties including St. Clair and Macomb!