More than A Flu Shot: Senior Immunizations

By MARY ANN REUTER

You likely know that children need to be immunized for childhood diseases like whooping cough, mumps and measles. And that adults may need certain vaccinations before traveling to other countries.

But did you know that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends as many as 11 vaccines for adults, depending on their age and health condition?

Vaccines are an important step in protecting adults against serious, sometimes deadly, diseases. Even if you were vaccinated at a younger age, the protection from some vaccines can wear off with time. In other cases, the viruses or bacteria that vaccines protect against have evolved, so your resistance is not as strong. Finally, as you get older, you may be at risk for vaccine-preventable diseases because of your age, job, hobbies, travel, or health conditions.

  • Influenza (flu) vaccine every year to protect against seasonal flu
  • Td vaccine every 10 years to protect against tetanus.
  • Tdap vaccine once instead of Td vaccine to protect against tetanus and diphtheria, plus pertussis (whooping cough) and during each pregnancy for women.
  • Other vaccines you need as an adult are determined by factors such as age, lifestyle, job, health condition and vaccines you have had in the past.
  • Vaccines you need if you are 50 years or older may include those that protect against shingles, pneumococcal disease, and meningococcal disease—even hepatitis A and hepatitis B, chickenpox (varicella), and measles, mumps, and rubella if you did not get these as a child.
  • Adults with chronic conditions are more likely to develop complications from vaccine-preventable diseases. Complications can include long-term illness, hospitalization, or even death. Talk to a healthcare professional to make sure you are up-to-date on the vaccines CDC recommends for you.

Heart Disease

People with heart disease, or those who have had a stroke, have a higher risk of serious medical complications from flu. Among adults hospitalized with flu during the 2017-2018 flu season, heart disease was among the most commonly reported chronic conditions.

CDC recommends people with heart disease get a yearly flu vaccine. They should also get pneumococcal vaccines—once as an adult before 65 years of age and then two more doses at 65 years or older.

Lung Disease

People with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)—or other conditions that affect the lungs—have a higher risk of complication from flu. This is true even if the condition is mild, and symptoms are controlled. Since people with asthma have sensitive airways, inflammation caused by flu can trigger attacks. People with lung disease are more likely to develop pneumonia and other respiratory diseases after getting sick.

CDC recommends people with asthma, COPD, or other conditions that affect the lungs get a yearly flu vaccine. If you have a lung condition, you should also get pneumococcal vaccines—once as an adult before 65 years of age and then two more doses at 65 years or older.

Diabetes

People with type 1 or type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of hepatitis B virus infection. Hepatitis B can spread from the sharing of blood glucose meters, finger stick devices, or other diabetes care equipment. People with diabetes, even if well managed, are more likely to have complications from the flu. They are at increased risk for pneumonia, which can lead to hospitalization.

CDC recommends people with diabetes get pneumococcal vaccines (once as an adult before 65 years of age and then two more doses at 65 years or older), a yearly flu vaccine, and a hepatitis B vaccine series (for those between the ages of 19 and 59).

Vaccines are the safest way to protect your health. Talk with your doctor about getting your vaccinations up to date, and visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines for more information about recommended immunizations for adults.

Did you know?

Streptococcus pneumoniae, or pneumococcus, is a type of bacterium that causes pneumococcal [noo-muh-KOK-uhl]  disease. Pneumococcal infections can range from ear and sinus infections to pneumonia and bloodstream infections. Children younger than 2 years old and adults 65 years or older are among those most at risk. Certain vaccines can prevent pneumococcal disease.

Meningococcal disease can refer to any illness caused by the type of bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis, also known as meningococcus [muh-ning-goh-KOK-us]. These illnesses are often severe and can be deadly. They include infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and bloodstream infections (bacteremia or septicemia).

These bacteria spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions like spit (e.g., by living in close quarters, kissing). Doctors treat meningococcal disease with antibiotics, but quick medical attention is extremely important. Keeping up-to-date with recommended vaccines is the best defense against meningococcal disease. ISI

 

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