Four Vaccines Urged for Seniors

Four Vaccines Urged for Seniors

I saw this article and thought it would be good information to pass on to you. We all thought we were done with vaccines by the time we reached adulthood. It is important to consult with doctors to ensure that you are still up to date with important shots so that you can proactively avoid some of the diseases that can be so damaging to the health of the elderly.

In the 1920s, respiratory diphtheria was one of the greatest fears of parents for their children. In the United States, about 100,000-200,000 cases of diphtheria per year caused 13,000-15,000 deaths, mostly children, over that decade (Wikipedia). Today, diphtheria vaccines have largely eradicated the disease from the United States. Indeed, if diphtheria is remembered today, it is because of the famous story of a relay race of sled dogs and their mushers delivering diphtheria antitoxin 674 miles away in Nome, Alaska to prevent a predicted outbreak. . The starting relay in 1925 became today’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Today, vaccines have held back the development of many diseases that were once considered fatal, especially in the elderly. While some vaccines have side effects, health experts say the benefits typically outweigh the possible complications of some diseases in the elderly. Except for people with certain health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, lung disease, diabetes, kidney problems, or a condition that weakens the immune system, getting vaccinated is a safer choice than risking disease for immune protection. Consult with your doctor to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each vaccine for you.

Vaccines work by exposing you to dead or weakened pathogenic microorganisms, which cause your body’s immune system to produce antibodies that fight the microorganisms, helping to make you immune to a specific disease. Most vaccines are given as a simple injection, usually in the arm, although some are given by mouth or nasal spray.

Experts recommend four vaccinations for the elderly: flu, pneumonia, shingles, and a tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis combination.


The most popular vaccine is for influenza, commonly called influenza, a contagious disease caused by viruses. Older people are at a higher risk of developing serious flu complications that require hospitalization; in some cases, the flu can be fatal. 90% of influenza-related deaths and more than half of influenza-related hospitalizations occur in people aged 65 and over. As you age, your immune system weakens, which makes you more susceptible to the flu.

Health experts recommend that people aged 50 and over receive a dose of the flu shot every year, preferably in October or November, before the winter flu season begins. The flu season usually peaks in January or February, but can occur as late as May. Early immunization is most effective, but it’s not too late to get the vaccine in December, January, or later. Flu vaccines are needed every year because immunity is short-lived and vaccine manufacturers make updates every year to combat current strains of the virus.

If you get the flu shot, you are 60% less likely to need treatment for flu from a healthcare provider. Vaccination can also reduce illness, antibiotic use, lost time from work, hospitalizations and deaths.

Although the flu shot is meant to protect you for a flu season, the evidence supports that immunity declines more rapidly in older people. Therefore, another flu vaccine option is available, one that contains a higher dose of antigen, the part of the vaccine that prompts the body to produce an antibody. Designed specifically for people aged 65 and over, this alternative is intended to create a stronger immune response.

For those concerned about possible dangers, seasonal flu vaccines have a good safety track record ( The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) closely monitor their safety. As with any medication, mild side effects, such as pain, headache, and fever, are common. Less common and more severe are severe reactions such as difficulty breathing, hives or swelling of the face; for these, consult a doctor immediately.


Shingles is an extremely painful and contagious rash that is triggered by the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person has recovered from chickenpox, the virus remains in the body in a dormant state but can reactivate years later for reasons not fully known. At least 1 million people a year in the United States get shingles.

The zoster vaccine, which scientists developed in 2006, is not guaranteed to prevent shingles, but it can reduce the risk by about 50 percent, or at least minimize its severity. recommends anyone 60 years of age or older to get the shingles vaccine, regardless of whether they remember having chickenpox or not. Studies show that over 99 percent of Americans aged 40 or over have had chickenpox, even if they don’t remember it. Shingles is much more common in people aged 50 and over than in young people, and increasing age can cause more serious effects.

A shingles rash usually appears on one side of the face or body and lasts for two to four weeks. Its main symptom is pain, which can be severe. Other symptoms include fever, headache, chills, and stomach pain. Very rarely, a shingles infection can lead to pneumonia, hearing problems, blindness, brain inflammation (encephalitis), or death.

For about 20 percent of people, the severe pain, called post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN), can continue long after the shingles rash has resolved. Its repercussions are most prevalent in the elderly, affecting up to half of untreated people aged 60 and over. Although PHN pain can be debilitating, it usually clears up within a few weeks or months.

Although any vaccine may carry risks, no serious problems have been identified with the shingles vaccine. Mild reactions may include headache and redness, pain, swelling or itching at the injection site.


Pneumococcal bacterial infection is a leading cause of death in the United States from a vaccine-preventable disease. The elderly, in particular, are susceptible to pneumonia, responsible for 60,000 deaths among those over 65 each year. The CDC recommends that people aged 65 and over receive a one-time dose of pneumococcal vaccine; those who were vaccinated more than five years ago and were under the age of 65 at the time should receive a one-time repeat vaccination.

Pneumococcal infections, which include pneumonia, blood infections (bacteremia), brain infections (pneumococcal meningitis), and middle ear infections, are spread through respiratory secretions, such as coughing and sneezing. The disease results from a type of bacterium called Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) which is found in the nose and throat of many people.

Symptoms of pneumonia include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and chest pain. In addition to redness, pain and swelling at the injection site, side effects of the vaccine can include mild fever, fatigue, headache, chills, or muscle pain.


Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis, all caused by bacteria, can be very serious, in both teens and adults. Before vaccines, the United States had up to 200,000 cases of diphtheria and pertussis per year and hundreds of tetanus infections. Since the start of vaccination, tetanus and diphtheria have decreased by about 99% and pertussis by about 80% (CDC). The Tdap vaccination covers all three diseases.

Tetanus bacteria enter the body when cuts, scrapes, or wounds come into contact with contaminated soil, dust, or manure. Tetanus, also known as trismus, affects the nervous system, causing painful muscle tightening and stiffness, usually all over the body. In some cases, you can’t open your mouth, swallow, or even breathe. It can be deadly, particularly to older people, killing around one in five infected people. As immunity from previous tetanus vaccines eventually wears off, ask your doctor if you need to get another vaccination.

Diphtheria is a respiratory bacterial infection that spreads from person to person through coughing or sneezing. If left untreated, it can cause airway obstruction, coma and death. Although both tetanus and diphtheria are rare in the United States today, people who become infected often have serious complications.

Whooping cough, also known as whooping cough, produces severe coughing fits, which can cause breathing difficulties, vomiting, and sleep disturbances. The disease can also lead to weight loss, incontinence, and rib fractures due to coughing. Up to 2% of adolescents and 5% of adults with whooping cough are hospitalized or have complications, which could include pneumonia or death. Older people are increasingly affected by whooping cough, possibly due to decreased immunity.

You should get the Tdap vaccination as a one-time booster, regardless of when you received your last tetanus and diphtheria vaccine. Side effects include redness or swelling at the injection site, headache, fatigue, fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain.


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