Health and Wellness

What’s Age Got to Do with It: Senior Patients Need Vaccines Too!

Posted by Susan Reed, A.N.P., G.N.P. on Mar 4, 2015 9:00:00 AM

I work with senior patients every day. I’m often asked whether they should get vaccinated. The short answer: Yes! Older adults are particularly vulnerable, especially when it comes to some infectious diseases.

There’s a reason you tend hear that a disease or illness is especially bad for children or seniors. When a person is young, their immune system hasn’t completely developed, making it more difficult to fight off disease. Similarly, as people age, their immune system isn’t as strong. This means an older patient could have a harder time dealing with the ravages of illness. Because of this, it is especially important for those 65 and older to receive another layer of protection in the form of vaccinations.

 

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A Protective Shield for Seniors

There are some illnesses that seem to be more prevalent or do more damage to older patients. The good news is that there are vaccines to help prevent these illnesses! Here’s a list of the vaccines you need if you are older than 65:

  • Flu shots should be administered in a high dose once per year.
  • One shot of each of two types of pneumonia shot, the “23,” which protects against 23 strains of pneumonia, and the “13,” which protects against 13 additional strains of pneumonia, should be administered once after age 65 even if you received them previously for another reason.
  • The Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) should be administered once, and then following that, a Td (tetanus and diphtheria) booster should be given once every 10 years.
  • Zoster should be given one time, and it protects against shingles.

Is Measles a Threat to Seniors?

Even though there is a resurgence of measles (likely because many people aren’t vaccinating their children), those of us born before 1957 aren’t in need of vaccinations for measles, mumps, rubella and chicken pox. The vast majority of us are immune to those illnesses because they were prevalent when we were young and we had them as children, so no booster is needed. 

As with anything medically related, it is important to check with your physician so they can tell you what is best for your health. For example, people who are immunocompromised, such as patients who are receiving chemotherapy, are taking prescriptions that affect the immune system, or are HIV positive, need to check which vaccines they can have. Some are not given to immunocompromised individuals. 

Do you have questions about vaccinations for older people? Comment below and join the conversation! 

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Susan Reed is a Geriatric Nurse Practitioner in Neurology at Kelsey-Seybold. She strongly believes in patient education and forging open, honest relationships with her patients to help assure they get the best care possible.

Topics: older adults, pneumonia, vaccine protection, shingles, senior citizen vaccination, 65 and older

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