Recommended Vaccinations for Senior Citizens

Vaccinations are an important part of our society. They prevent the spread of some of the world’s deadliest diseases, thereby saving millions of lives every year.

Diseases such as whooping cough, shingles and measles may spread rapidly if populations are not vaccinated. Once you get one of these illnesses, it may be very difficult to recover. Fortunately, you are not likely to catch one of these diseases due to the widespread use of vaccines. If you are not vaccinated, you are at high risk for contracting these diseases and spreading them to others.

If you are a senior, you are even less likely to survive any of these diseases. You are also at high risk if you catch the flu or develop pneumonia, as your body will have a harder time recovering. To protect yourself from contracting these illnesses, make sure you receive your yearly flu shot and other vaccinations as one of many ways of preventive care.

It is very important that you understand which vaccines you need and why you need them. Learn more about recommended vaccines for seniors below.

An Explanation of Vaccinations

A vaccine is a shot you receive at the doctors, which typically contains small amounts of dead or weakened germs, viruses or bacteria. Once these are injected into your system, your body may develop resistance by producing antibodies. Thus, if you come in contact with these germs, later on, you will be immune to that particular disease.

The side effects of vaccines are usually mild and involve soreness at the injection site or headaches. Your doctor will go over the more serious side effects, which are much rarer. Vaccines must be licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before they are available for widespread use.

What is the yearly flu vaccine?

The flu is a highly contagious respiratory illness characterized by a sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle or body aches. Though some patients experience mild effects from the flu, others, especially seniors may experience very severe and debilitating symptoms.

The flu is particularly dangerous if an elderly adult also has diabetes or asthma because these diseases weaken the body’s immune system. Furthermore, the flu may develop into pneumonia, which is deadly for seniors. Approximately one out of three cases of pneumonia are caused by the flu.

There are several misconceptions about the flu shot, namely that it can give you the flu. However, scientific evidence does not back up this claim. Even though the vaccine only covers certain strains each year, it is important to regularly get the shot. This is because the vaccine may lessen the symptoms if you do contract a certain strain that is not covered.

Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis (Tdap or Td) Vaccines

Your doctor may strongly recommend that you receive the Tdap vaccination if you are 65 years of age or older. This vaccine will protect you from tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough. The Tdap vaccine is normally administered when a patient is 11 or 12 years of age, though a patient may also get it if he or she is older. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you receive a Td booster every 10 years.

Tetanus does not spread between people, but it is easily contracted if you have not been vaccinated. This disease is characterized by painful muscle spasms which start in the jaw and eventually permeate the body. They can become so severe that they result in broken bones and difficulty breathing. In fact, tetanus is so deadly that 20 percent of the people who contract it will not survive.

Diphtheria is an infection that spreads between people through coughs and sneezes, though a very small percentage of the population may contract the infection if they have open sores and touch contaminated surfaces. This disease was much more prevalent in the 1920s, but modern medicine has decreased the number of yearly occurrences by 99.9 percent.

It is important to receive a vaccine for diphtheria because it may cause paralysis, pneumonia, lung failure and even death in senior citizens.

Whooping cough, which is one of the more common diseases in the U.S., is also known as pertussis. Whooping cough is highly contagious and caused by bacteria. It usually results in uncontrollable and violent coughing fits and begins with the symptoms of a cold. It is particularly deadly because it may cause pneumonia and even convulsions if left untreated.

Why it is Important to Get the Shingles Vaccine

If you are an elderly adult and have not had the shingles vaccine, it is highly recommended that you get it as soon as possible. Approximately one out of every three people will contract shingles, and your chances of developing the disease will increase as you age.

Symptoms of the disease include painful blisters and rashes, which may even lead to postherpetic neuralgia. Postherpetic neuralgia causes burning pain that can last far longer than the rashes or blisters. Though there is still a small chance that you may contract shingles even if you have the shot, the vaccine is currently 90 percent effective.

Getting the Pneumonia Vaccine

While some strains of pneumonia are not life-threatening, others may cause severe complications, especially if you are 65 years of age or older. Pneumonia is highly contagious and may result in lung infections, brain infections, spinal cord infections and blood infections, all of which require hospitalization. If you receive two doses of the vaccine, you are normally protected for life.

Meningococcal Vaccine

The meningococcal vaccine protects against meningococcal meningitis, which is a very rare but often fatal bacterial infection. The infection results in inflammation to the membranes in your brain and spinal cord, which may make it difficult for you to move certain parts of your body.

If you suspect that you have the disease, you must act quickly. The contraction of meningitis may result in death in only a few hours. As a result, it is important to protect yourself from meningococcal bacteria by getting vaccinated.

What vaccines are recommended if you have not already received them?

If you did not receive certain vaccines as a child, teenager or young adult, the CDC recommends that you get them immediately. This includes vaccines for MMR, or measles, mumps and rubella, human papillomavirus (HPV), chickenpox, Hepatitis A and B and HIB, or Haemophilus influenza.