Vaccines for the Elderly

Adults age 65 and older have specialized health needs, and this includes a specific vaccination protocol. Here, the home and elder care specialists discuss some of the most common vaccinations necessary for the elderly.

As we age, our immune system naturally weakens, making us more susceptible to infectious diseases. Vaccines are designed to protect the body from many of these diseases, and can prevent long-term illness, hospitalization and even death. Many elderly people also have ongoing or chronic health conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, which put them further at risk of contracting an infectious disease—vaccinations are doubly important for these individuals. There are several common vaccinations that many elderly people receive: read below for more information about these vaccines.

Influenza Vaccine

Influenza, or the flu, as it is commonly known, is still a serious and deadly virus, as we have seen with this year’s country-wide flu epidemic.   The elderly, as well as the very young, are the most susceptible to contracting the flu, with those 65 and older comprising approximately 85% of flu-deaths and 70% of flu-hospitalizations. There is still time, however, to receive the flu vaccine, which typically cuts an individual’s risk of contracting the flu by 40-60%. There are several vaccines especially designed for the elderly, which may provide a greater level of protection: they include Fluzone High-Dose, Fluad and Flublock Quadrivalent. Receiving a flu vaccine in the morning, as opposed to the evening, can make it even more effective, and it is important to remember that most people require two weeks for the vaccine to circulate through their body before they reach maximum levels of protection.

Pneumococcal Vaccine

Pneumococcal bacteria cause pneumonia, blood infections and meningitis, all of which are more likely to develop in older adults—and these diseases take the lives of 18,000 seniors 65 and older each year. Two vaccines, which doctors strongly recommend adults 65 and older have in succession, have been created to protect against pneumococcal disease. The first, called PCV13, should be received a year before the second, called PPSV23. The combination of both vaccines greatly increases a senior’s chance of avoiding a pneumococcal disease. Individuals with some health complications, such as diabetes or asthma, or those with chronic heart, lung, liver or kidney disease, should speak to a medical professional about being vaccinated before the age of 65.

Shingles Vaccine

Shingles, formally known as herpes zoster, is a disease caused by a dormant strain of the chicken pox virus, or varicella-zoster virus. Any adult who had chicken pox as a child has the dormant virus in their system, although not all will contract shingles. Symptoms include a painful, blistering rash that can take several weeks to clear, and in more serious cases, mild to severe nerve pain may occur, and persist for months or even years. There are two vaccines for shingles on the market—the newest was just recently approved by the FDA. Called Shingrix, it is far more effective than the older vaccine—Zostavax—and has a 90% efficacy rate for four years in adults over the age of 60. Receiving a shingles vaccine may not only prevent shingles from developing, but can greatly reduce the chance of contracting the debilitating nerve pain that sometimes accompanies it.

Tdap Vaccine

As children, we receive the DTaP—diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis—vaccine, and most individuals receive an additional booster vaccine, known as the Tdap vaccine, as teens or young adults. Older adults who have not received the booster vaccine are strongly encouraged to receive it, especially if they spend time around infants. Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, can be life-threatening in children under the age of 12 months, and older adults can have pertussis without showing any symptoms, making it critical to be properly vaccinated.

Avila Home Care Wants to Help Older Adults Take Control of Their Health

Vaccinations are a marvel of the modern age, and have saved millions from debilitating disease, and even death. It is important to stay informed about your health, and to follow appropriate medical advice. Our caretakers are available to help their clients remember their daily medications, visit pharmacies and medical professionals to collect prescriptions or seek treatment and assist those with Alzheimer’s or dementia. For more information about our dedicated caretakers, contact us today.   

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