August is National Immunization Awareness Month
During August’s National Immunization Awareness Month, experts remind Americans that vaccines save lives and protect health. Some people think that vaccines are only for children. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tells us that vaccines also are important and encouraged for adults. To promote adult vaccination, the CDC also has named August 24-30 as “Not Just for Kids” week, promoting the fact that adults, too, should be immunized.
Seniors in particular are at higher risk of side effects and even death from a number of the preventable diseases targeted by vaccines. Unvaccinated seniors might pass dangerous illnesses on to children and others. Yet only a small percentage of seniors have received all the vaccinations that are recommended for them.
Here are the vaccines recommended by the CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for most older adults. Of course, you should consult your healthcare provider before receiving any vaccines, and about which form of each vaccine is best for you.
Influenza (Flu). Seniors are at high risk of complications and even death from the flu. Get your annual flu shot as soon as the vaccine is available in your area. Ask your doctor which flu shot you should receive.
Pneumonia (Pneumococcal Disease). This disease can lead to serious infections of the lungs, blood and brain. One dose is recommended for all adults age 65 and older.
Tetanus/Diphtheria/Pertussis. Tetanus (sometimes called “lockjaw”) and diphtheria are severe, often fatal diseases. Pertussis (“whooping cough”) causes spasms of severe coughing. The vaccines for these three diseases are given in different combinations; consult your healthcare provider about the type that is recommended for you.
Shingles (herpes zoster). Shingles causes a painful skin rash, and can lead to long-term pain and disability. All adults 60 years old or older should get the shingles vaccine.
The CDC also recommends additional vaccines for people with certain health problems, immunization histories and lifestyles. These vaccines include the Measles/Mumps/Rubella (MMR) shot, vaccinations for Hepatitis A and B, and for Meningococcal disease. Your doctor can tell you if you should receive any of these immunizations.
Vaccines are safe. The CDC says, “Vaccines are thoroughly tested before licensing and are carefully monitored even after they are licensed to ensure that they are very safe.” Side effects and allergies are rare and usually temporary. Talk to your healthcare provider about the vaccines that are right for you based on your age, health, lifestyle, occupation and other factors.
Vaccines.gov (www.vaccines.gov) is the government’s consumer portal for immunization information.
The American Geriatrics Association offers a factsheet about vaccines for seniors (www.healthinaging.org/files/documents/tipsheets/vaccinations.pdf) which includes recommended vaccinations, instructions on when to get them, and any cautions associated with specific vaccines.
The information in this article is not intended to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Talk to your doctor about the vaccinations that are right for you.
Photo: National Public Health Information Coalition (www.nphic.org)
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