Why Seniors Need the Flu Shot & Other Vaccines
Vaccines aren't just for kids. Adults need protection from serious illnesses, too, especially people over the age of 65.
Immunity to certain diseases can wear off over time, and as people get older, they are at an increased risk of contracting flu and other serious infections, like pneumonia. For younger people, these illnesses may be minor setbacks, but for older adults, they could quickly become life-threatening. Older adults need to stay up to date on their vaccinations, including the annual flu vaccine.
Each year, 5% to 20% of U.S. residents will get the flu. More than half of the 200,000 Americans hospitalized as a result of the flu are adults 65 and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Furthermore, 90% of the deaths attributed to complications from the flu occur in people over the age of 65.
For older adults affected by lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma, the combined risk becomes a compound risk. The danger of death from flu-related complications, particularly another infection like pneumonia, is much higher for people with lung conditions.
Protection Against the Flu
The best way to prevent the seasonal flu and flu-related complications is to get vaccinated every year, the CDC advises.
Seniors have two flu vaccine options: the regular-dose vaccine or the newer, high-dose vaccine, is recommended for adults 65 years and older. The difference is that the high-dose version contains a higher amount of antigen – the substance that triggers the production of antibodies – contained in regular flu shots. Although it includes a higher amount of antigen, the high-dose flu shot is no riskier than the standard-dose flu vaccine, according to the CDC.
Other Vaccines Older Adults Need
Other than the flu vaccines, these vaccines are recommended for older adults:
This vaccine protects against pneumococcal disease, which causes pneumonia. The CDC notes that the risk of death due to pneumococcal pneumonia is highest among older adults. They recommend that all adults 65 or older get this vaccine unless directed otherwise by their doctor. Adults under 65 with chronic health conditions should also be immunized.
This combination vaccine protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough). Unlike the DTaP vaccine given to young children, the Tdap vaccine contains reduced doses of diphtheria and pertussis. Adults who have not received this shot since childhood should get another dose. Adults should also get a tetanus-diphtheria (Td) booster dose every ten years, according to the CDC.
Herpes zoster, more commonly known as shingles, is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Shingles erupt as a rash or blisters on the skin. The condition can be excruciating, Edelman warns. About 1 million Americans get shingles every year, and about 50% are 60 or older. They recommend that adults in this age group get one dose of the zoster vaccine.
Helping you through the process
If your parent or loved one needs more help than you can provide, contact Oasis Senior Advisors for assistance. We offer resources for seniors and their families, as well as support and guidance every step of the way so you can feel confident in your senior housing selection. Deciding to make a move to a long-term care community is an emotional, financial, and physically taxing process, and you don't have to do it alone.