Immunizations for Older Adults

Around the country kids are beginning to head back to school, signaling the beginning to the end of summer. Why does it go by so fast? The end of summer also means that flu season is around the corner. These are some of the reasons that the National Public Health Information Coalition designated August as the National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM).

This annual observance is held in August to highlight the importance of vaccination for people of all ages. NIAM was established to encourage people of all ages to make sure they are up to date on the vaccines recommended for them. Communities have continued to use the month each year to raise awareness about the important role vaccines play in preventing serious, sometimes deadly, diseases.

Immunizations have saved hundreds of thousands of lives since being put into wide use during the 20th century. Diseases like small pox and polio have been essentially eradicated. Childhood mortality has been greatly reduced through the use of vaccines, and many older adults have been spared pneumonia and complications from influenza and shingles.

Every age group has specific recommendations for immunizations. For the older adult above the age of 60 these include protection against health conditions that are particularly dangerous. According to the Centers for Disease Control the recommendations for older adults include:

  • Annual influenza vaccine. The flu causes hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations each year and is responsible for thousands of deaths. Each year international health officials determine what virus is most likely to cause the majority of flu cases. That viral strain becomes the basis for that year’s flu vaccine. Experts recommend that older adults receive the vaccine as soon as it is available, usually in September. Getting the vaccine early allows the body time to build immunity before the start of the flu season in October.
  • Pneumococcal vaccines. There are two pneumococcal vaccines available-each of which protects against different strains of pneumococcal disease, which can cause dangerous pneumonia, blood, and brain infections. It is recommended that older adults receive both of these vaccines about 1 year apart.
  • Shingles. While shingles is rarely deadly-it is a condition that can cause serious and ongoing pain. Shingles is caused by the chicken pox virus that lays dormant along nerve roots. It is recommended that older adults who have had chicken pox receive the shingles vaccine, even if you have had shingle before.
  • Tetanus. Everyone should have a tetanus booster every 10 years.

The old saying is true-an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Here is to good health in the coming season.

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