August is National Immunization Awareness Month. This annual observance highlights the importance of getting recommended vaccines throughout your life. Yes, even as seniors we need to still be concerned about immunizations. Serious diseases such as the flu, pneumonia and shingles are a few examples of vaccinations that older adults should think about.
Why do you need to be aware of vaccines as an older adult?
There are many common illnesses you may have had or been vaccinated against many years ago. It is important to speak to your health care provider to make sure you are still protected. There are few reasons this is necessary. The primarily reason is because protection from some vaccines can wear off over time. This means you no longer have protection from a vaccine you received 20, 30 or 40 years ago. Another reason it is important is because as we age our immune system becomes less feisty than when we are younger. This means that we aren’t just more at risk for getting diseases such as the flu or pneumonia but we are at greater risk of developing complications from them. The reason for this is because as we age we tend to have chronic health conditions, if we get sick these other chronic conditions can make it harder for our bodies to fight infection.
How effective are the vaccines?
Vaccines are effective as a way of helping to prevent illness. They are not the only way to protect yourself from illness however they do work to make the symptoms of an illness, such as the flu, not as severe. This means that if you are exposed your body will have some antibodies to fight off the disease. This will help to lower your risk of being hospitalized or developing more serious complications.
Which vaccines do you need to know about?
Great question! There are four vaccines that older adults should consider speaking to your health care provider about and possibly getting. These are: the flu vaccine, pneumococcal vaccine, Tdap vaccine and Shingles vaccine. The next time you have a visit with your health care provider ask them about these vaccines and if you are up to date on them. Sometime older adults have health conditions that may prevent them from getting some vaccines. Be sure to check with your provider to make sure a vaccine is right for you before you get it.