Older woman smiling after receiving vaccines

Importance of Seniors Getting Immunizations!


What are the benefits of immunizations for older adults?

The benefits of vaccinating young children against deadly diseases like measles are well known. And while most of us may think we never need more than the annual flu shot again, seniors could receive the  life-saving benefit from getting vaccinated. This article will answer the questions: “What vaccinations do a 65-year-old and older need?” and “What are the benefits of keeping up on immunizations?” 

Immunizations for Older Adults. 

Why do seniors need additional immunizations? The vaccines you got when you were younger — tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis — can wear off over time. So you may need a booster. Plus, as we age, our immune system weakens and puts us at higher risk for certain diseases.

If you have questions about the types of bacteria and viruses that can be treated by vaccines, talk with your doctor. They can help you determine next steps. In general, here are some vaccinations to consider:

Influenza (flu): This is a respiratory virus that spreads through droplets from coughing or sneezing. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized with the flu, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths.

Vaccine: Flu immunity is short-lived, and vaccine manufacturers update their vaccines every year to make sure they’re as effective as possible against the current virus. The vaccine is recommended for most adults, especially if you have underlying high-risk conditions such as heart disease or diabetes. You can usually get the vaccine at your doctor’s office or local pharmacy September through April. If you’re allergic to eggs, latex, have had a severe reaction to the flu vaccine previously, or have Guillain-Barre syndrome, talk with your doctor. If you have a fever, you should get your vaccination after your illness subsides.

Shingles: This very painful, blistering rash is caused by varicella-zoster virus or chickenpox virus. It can be reactivated years later as a shingles infection. Thirty percent of Americans will develop shingles during their lifetime, or around 1 million people each year. The older you are when you get shingles, the more likely you are to have severe side effects, like fever, exhaustion and loss of appetite. 

Vaccine: Although it’s only been available for a little while, this vaccine is up to 97% effective and can at least minimize its severity. It’s recommended for anyone 60 or older. There are risks with the vaccine for people with certain conditions, so be sure to discuss any health problems you have with your doctor.

Tetanus-Diphtheria-Pertussis: Tetanus is a bacteria that enters the body through a deep flesh wound that can interfere with your ability to breathe. Diphtheria is a bacteria that attaches to the lining of the respiratory system and produces toxins that make it hard to breathe and swallow. This can lead to infections of the lung, blood, heart, kidney and nerves. Pertussis (also known as whooping cough) can lead to uncontrollable coughing, which often makes it harder to breathe. Possibly due to fading immunity, more and more seniors are getting pertussis, 

Vaccine: The Tdap vaccine is a booster shot. Infants are given TDaP starting at two months of age. You should get this vaccine if you are less than 64 years old to replace one of the series of tetanus vaccines. (A tetanus booster shot is recommended every 10 years.) It contains the same components as the tetanus-diphtheria vaccine with the addition of the pertussis.

Pneumococcal: This disease causes severe infections throughout the bloodstream and/or key organs. Conditions that can result from this disease include pneumonia (infection of the lungs), meningitis (infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord), and bacteremia (infection of the bloodstream). Pneumococcal disease can result in deafness, brain damage, loss of limbs and even death. 

Vaccine: This one-time vaccine is recommended for older adults over age 65. 

Hepatitis B: This contagious virus infects the liver. Acute hepatitis B, which usually lasts a few weeks, can be confused with the fever and nausea of the flu. Chronic hepatitis B is long-term, often has no symptoms, and can cause liver damage or death. Because the liver and its function change as you age, hepatitis B is more prevalent among older adults. The risk of contracting hepatitis B increases if you have hemophilia, end-stage renal disease, diabetes, or other conditions that lower resistance to infection. Acute hepatitis B is particularly dangerous for older adults because there is no specific treatment for the symptoms.

Vaccine: The hepatitis B vaccine is a series of three or four injections received over six months. Starting in 1991, infants started being vaccinated against hepatitis B. 

How Do Vaccines Work?

Your immune system has cells that produce antibodies that destroy invading pathogens like bacteria and viruses. Every time your immune system reacts to a specific bacteria or virus, it builds up a defense called immunity.  Vaccines imitate a bacterial or viral infection and tell your immune system to produce antibodies to protect you from a disease. The benefit of getting vaccinated, you also protect those around you who may not be vaccinated. The more people who get vaccinated, the fewer chances a disease has to spread.

The Chesapeake is committed to your overall wellness.

At our independent living community, we’ve long been recognized for providing exceptional comprehensive health services for older adults. We also feature The Chesapeake Clinic, which offers a variety of specialized services — including vaccinations, checkups, screenings and lab tests — making it easier to keep up with routine health maintenance and wellness. You can learn more about our senior living community by contacting us here.