In recent years, vaccinations for infants and children have become entangled in controversy. Vaccinations for older people, on the other hand, trigger much less debate.
Still, many seniors go without them, either because they don't think they're necessary, or they're too expensive. Or maybe, they just don't think much about them.
Dr. Cathleen Veach, Chief Quality Officer for PinnacleHealth Medical Group, says there are four vaccines in particular that seniors should not skip.
The first is an annual flu shot. That's because people age 65 and older are more at risk of developing complications if they come down with the flu. These complications include bronchitis, sinus and ear infections, and pneumonia.
If you have chronic health conditions, such as asthma, getting the flu can make them worse. Every year these flu-related complications send older adults to the hospital, where some die.
Another vaccination Veach recommends for seniors is the shingles vaccine. Also going by the names zoster or herpes zoster, shingles affects an estimated one million people in the U.S. each year. If you've had chickenpox, you have the shingles virus inside you. It comes out when your immune system is weakened.
When you develop shingles, you get a painful rash on one side of your face or body. The rash takes the form of blisters that create scabs in seven to 10 days and may take a month or longer to clear up.
While anyone can develop shingles, older people are more at risk. Veach says the vaccine is approved for people 50 years and older. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests anyone over 60 get vaccinated. The vaccine isn't bulletproof, but Veach says it reduces the risk by 51%.
Before antibiotics, people died from pneumonia all the time. People still die from it today, though not as much. A vaccine can reduce the chances even more.
The condition is the result of pneumococcal disease, which can cause severe infections of the lungs. Symptoms include fever and chills, cough, rapid breathing or difficulty breathing, and chest pain.
Pneumonia cases can be mild. However, it can turn deadly when the patient is already in a weakened condition.
Veach says there are two vaccines for pneumonia. She says seniors may need both. PREVNAR covers 13 strains and PCV23 covers 23 strains. Adults under age 65 with conditions affecting the immune system should check with their healthcare provider before getting vaccinated.
The final vaccine is for whooping cough. Veach says it is normally given as part of a group of vaccines that also protects against tetanus and diphtheria. Booster doses of these vaccines are recommended every 10 years for adults.
Naturally, since everyone's health condition is unique, seniors should discuss any vaccine with their healthcare providers first.
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