As we age our body systems become weak, this includes the immune system. Vaccinations are intended to provide a back-up to our immune systems. For infants and seniors it is important to stay current on vaccines, making sure there is adequate protection against illnesses that can prove fatal in the right body system.
Seniors, aged 65 years and older, are 100 times more likely to die from a vaccine preventable condition or illness. It is estimated that 36,000 deaths occur annually from the flu, with 90% of the fatalities occurring in this demographic. A number that seems unbelievable considering the amount of flu shot clinics available during the season.
Caregivers and family members should be aware as to whether or not their elderly charge has received the right vaccinations. If they haven’t, caregivers should encourage receiving the vaccinations and emphasize the importance to the health of the patient.
Three vaccinations a senior should never go without include:
Flu Shot – This annual shot protects seniors from developing influenza. It takes around 2 weeks for the shot to become fully active in the body, making October-November the best time to receive a flu shot. These seasonal shots decrease the risk of contracting the flu and also lessen the severity of symptoms if the flu gets past the vaccine. This simple vaccine can lower a senior’s risk of becoming 1 of the 225,000 elderly patients hospitalized each year for flu complications.
Pneumococcal Vaccine – This vaccine prevents against pneumonia, a lung infection , which is the leading cause of illness and fatalities among the senior community. Pneumonia can develop as a bi-product of an already existing illness or develop on its own due to germ inhalation. Having already been ill will increase the risk for the development of pneumonia, which kills 46,000 people in the United States each year. Pneumonia is not limited to affecting seniors. It can also reach people in the younger demographic, though this demographic tends to have fewer complications. However, anyone with a pre-existing condition including heart disease, asthma, and diabetes endure as high of a risk as the elderly. The pneumococcal vaccine provides long-lasting protection and is a one-time vaccine.
Shingles – The Chicken-Pox’s sneaky cousin. The shingles virus succeeds chicken-pox by decades, but is the same virus also known as the herpes zoster virus. Chicken-pox appears generally in childhood, but the virus never actually leaves the body, usually reappearing later in life as shingles, as a more-intense, nasty version. Symptoms are similar to those experienced with childhood chicken-pox including fever, headache, blistering, and an extremely painful skin rash. Shingles can be a fatal condition, making it important for seniors to get vaccinated before the virus reappears. Fortunately, the one-time shingles vaccine is available and recommended for those aged 60 and over.