Immunization Checkup for Seniors


As summer winds down, parents are busy shopping for school supplies, checking last year’s clothing to see what still fits, scheduling appointments for physical and dental exams, and, more often than not, subjecting them to vaccinations. But back-to-school season isn’t just a time for school kids to endure those dreaded shots. At this time of year, adults also need to get in on the act, especially those over the age of 60.

According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), adults over the age of 60 should be up to date on a number of vaccinations. To ensure you or your senior loved ones are receiving the best possible senior care, make sure vaccinations are current for:

  • Influenza - needs to be done every year

  • Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis - every ten years

  • Varicella (chickenpox) - two doses throughout one’s life

  • Herpes zoster (shingles) - one dose after the age of 60

  • Pneumococcal (PPSV23) - one dose after the age of 65

As one ages, the body’s natural immune system becomes weaker, which puts older adults at a higher risk for catching viruses such as the flu and pneumonia. In fact, pneumonia and the flu combine to make up the seventh leading cause of death for adults over the age of 65 in the United States. Appropriately vaccinating against these diseases can ward off, or at least reduce, the severity of these viruses--which can save lives.

Despite common misconceptions, influenza and pneumococcal vaccines are rather safe. The fact is, fewer than 1% of those who receive the shots develop symptoms such as fever, muscle aches, or more severe local reactions. And in spite of comments to the contrary, you cannot get the flu from the traditional flu shot, which is made with a dead virus. In fact, the vaccine for influenza can have an effectiveness rate of as high as 70 to 90 percent in healthy seniors.

According to the National Network for Immunization Information, hospital patients who receive the pneumonia vaccine:

  • Have a lower incidence of respiratory failure

  • Have a lower incidence of kidney failure

  • Have a lower incidence of heart attack

  • Spend two fewer days in the hospital on average

  • Are 40 to 70 percent less likely to die from complications from pneumococcal bacteremia than unvaccinated patients

For many seniors, it has been a very long time since they were last vaccinated for tetanus, diphtheria, or pertussis. This vaccination, also called the DTaP, should be boosted with another shot every ten years.

Finally, even if you received the chickenpox vaccine as a child, and whether or not you actually contracted the virus as a child, as an adult you still need to get the herpes zoster (shingles) vaccine, as the virus can present in a more painful and harmful way in later life. The risk of developing shingles also increases as we age, with half of the cases occurring in both men and women over age 60.

The CDC offers a free, downloadable Adult Immunization Scheduler so that older adults and their family members can keep track of the vaccinations that are needed as they age.

AAging Better In-Home Care is here to help encourage and facilitate proper vaccinations as part of our North Idaho senior care services. To learn more, contact us at 866-464-2344.

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