You Never Outgrow the Need for Vaccines: Immunizations at Every Age
August is National Immunization Awareness Month! Are you up to date on your vaccines and vaccine boosters? Immunity from vaccines received as a child can wear off over time and adults are at risk of different diseases than those from childhood. Vaccines are one of the most important aspects of healthcare for seniors. They are the easiest and safest way to protect your health, protect your loved ones, and your community. They prevent severe illness and hospitalization, continuing your wellbeing and quality of life. Due to weakened immune systems that come with age, people ages 65 and older are more susceptible to illness and disease. Serious health complications and death are often the result of not sticking to an immunization schedule. To prevent these high-risk complications, it is crucial for those age 65+ to stay up to date on their vaccines and vaccine boosters. With so much confusing information out there about immunizations, how are you supposed to know which ones you may need?
Are vaccines safe? Yes, vaccines are very safe. They undergo years of testing from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before they are licensed for use.
What are common side effects of vaccines? Typically, there are very mild side effects from receiving a vaccine or vaccine booster. Side effects may include, soreness, redness, or swelling at the location of the given immunization shot. Severe side effects are extremely rare and should be reported to your provider as soon as possible.
Which vaccines are recommended for me? You may need certain vaccines based on your age, health conditions, lifestyle, or travel habits. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a personalized immunization assessment tool for adults to create a general list of vaccines you may need (this list may include vaccines you have already received). Your provider will go over your vaccine records with you during your adult wellness checkup and will discuss any vaccines or boosters you may need.
Adults 65+ should have the following vaccines and boosters:
Seasonal Flu – One annual dose of the influenza vaccine is recommended for those 65+. An estimated 70%- 85% of seasonal flu-related deaths occur in people 65 years and older. With 50%-70% percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations occurring among this age group.
Tdap (Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis or “Whooping Cough”) – A booster every 10 years after the initial dose. To prevent serious illness and death, this vaccine is recommended. Tetanus can lead to serious health problems, including being unable to open the mouth, having trouble swallowing and breathing. Diphtheria can also lead to difficulty breathing, heart failure, and paralysis. Pertussis, also known as Whooping Cough, can cause difficulty breathing, difficulty eating, and difficulty drinking, weight loss, loss of bladder control, and rib fractures from coughing.
Pneumococcal Polysaccharide (Pneumonia and Meningitis) – One dose is recommended for those age 65+ and should only be received once. It is necessary starting at age 65 unless you have a health condition that required you to receive it earlier than is recommended in the average Senior Immunization Schedule. This vaccine is needed to prevent numerous bacterial infections including pneumonia, meningitis, ear infection, nose infection, lung infection, and blood infection. Adults 65+ are at an increased risk for pneumococcal disease with complications including hospitalization and death.
All adults should already have the following vaccines and boosters. If you have not received them, it is not too late. Please talk to your provider about getting the following immunizations:
Varicella (Chicken Pox) – Two doses are recommended if there has been no previous diagnosis or verification of a history of varicella or herpes zoster (Shingles) by a health care provider, or laboratory evidence of immunity or disease. Chicken Pox is an extremely contagious disease with a blister-like rash, itching, tiredness, and fever. Immunization against Chicken Pox will prevent the possibility of developing shingles and lessens the symptoms of Chicken Pox. This is important to prevent the serious pain that can be a result of the Shingles’ rash and to prevent community spread of the disease.
Shingles – 2 doses of the Shingles vaccine are necessary for those age 65+ to prevent a painful blistering rash that often occurs on one side of the body, torso, or face. This vaccine should only be received if you have not already received it. Shingles develop in persons who previously contracted Varicella, also known as Chicken Pox. The resulting burning pain from the rash can last for months or years after the rash heals and is the most common complication of Shingles.
Hepatitis A – 2 to 3 doses depending on the vaccine. Hepatitis A is an extremely contagious short-term liver infection which in those ages 65 and up, can lead to liver failure and death. This immunization should be given to those who have additional risk factors, such as chronic liver disease.
Hepatitis B - 2 to 3 doses depending on the vaccine. Hepatitis B is also a liver infection which can lead to liver damage, cirrhosis, liver cancer hospitalization, and even death. Hepatitis B can become a serious long-term chronic condition. This immunization should be given to those who have additional risk factors, such as chronic liver disease.
COVID-19 – 1 to 2 doses depending on the vaccine. Receiving a COVID-19 vaccine prevents severe illness, hospitalizations, and death. With the highly contagious Delta variant, this is extremely important to prevent any health issues.
How do I sign up to get my immunizations? You can book an appointment to receive your vaccines, an annual physical, or you can sign up for an adult wellness visit to go over your immunization records and get up to date on your vaccines. Click here to schedule an appointment.