Vaccines aren’t only for kids. And I’m not just talking about the flu shot either. Did you know adults should be getting regular vaccines? In fact, vaccines for seniors are just as important as vaccines for kids.
As we age, our immune systems get weaker and have a harder time fighting infections. Age makes us more likely to catch infections—and suffer complications from those illnesses. Getting vaccinated is especially important for seniors with chronic health conditions. Chronic health problems like diabetes and heart disease can leave you at higher risk of complications, so vaccines can help protect you.
August is National Immunization Awareness Month. And that means it’s the perfect time to talk about how important vaccines are for the aging population. Here are the top vaccines you should get once you hit 60.
Shingles is a painful disease that happens when the chickenpox virus, usually dormant in your blood stream, becomes active in your nerve tissues. Also called herpes zoster, shingles first causes tingling and pain, and then moves to a blistering rash with itching, burning, and deep pain. The rash usually lasts two to four weeks, and can be debilitating while you’re going through it. Most people will recover completely, but the risk of complication rises with age. In addition, the older or frailer you are, the worse you’ll feel when you have the actual infection.
Fortunately, we have a safe vaccine to prevent shingles, or even recurrences of the disease. Last year the FDA licensed a new, more effective vaccine called Shingrix, to be administered in two doses, two to six months apart. Although you can only get shingles if you had chickenpox in your life, the CDC recommends everyone over age 60 gets the vaccine, even if they don’t recall having chickenpox as a child. That’s because statistics show that 99 percent of Americans over age 40 had chickenpox, even if they don’t remember it.
Pneumococcus is a bacterial agent that causes pneumonia, sepsis, and bacterial meningitis, among other infections. The infection is most common among children, which is why babies also get the pneumococcal vaccine. However, older adults carry the most risk of developing severe complications, such as serious illness and death. There are two types of pneumococcal vaccines, and the CDC recommends either one for adults aged 65 and older.
The vaccine can not prevent all cases, but it has been proven to protect 45 percent of seniors against pneumococcal pneumonia, and 75 percent against other invasive pneumococcal diseases.
Ideally all adults should receive a flu shot every year at the start of flu season, if only to protect the seniors and children in their lives. However, many older adults choose to forego the vaccine year after year. Once you reach 60, though, you should not skip the annual vaccine. Like most infections, having the flu when you’re older can cause serious complications. Especially if you live in a retirement community like Bridgeway Senior Living, you should get vaccinated to protect yourself and others.
Don’t worry; we’ll remind you again at the start of the flu season in October. For now, though, make sure you’re up to date with your shingles and pneumococcal vaccines. Once you’re at, check if you need a tetanus booster or any other vaccines based on your age, lifestyle, or location.