As the summer season comes to a close, parents of school-aged children are busy picking up school supplies, seeing if last year’s clothing still fits or needs to be updated, arranging appointments for medical checkups, and, depending on their children’s ages, making sure they’re up to date on vaccinations. But fall isn’t just the time for school kids to roll up their sleeves and grit their teeth for the 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 this report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), adults over the age of 60 should be up to date on a number of vaccinations, including:
- Influenza – 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, influenza and pneumonia together are the seventh leading cause of death for people 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, both the flu and pneumonia 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, you cannot contract the flu from the traditional flu shot, which is made with a dead virus. In fact, the flu vaccine can be as much as 70 to 90 percent effective for 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 shingles, or herpes zoster vaccine, as the virus can present in a more painful and harmful way in later life. The risk of getting shingles also increases as you get older, with half of the cases occurring in men and women over the age of 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.
As a part of our California home care services, Visiting Angels can help to encourage and facilitate proper vaccinations. To learn more, contact us at 408-735-0977 or 510-284-0000.