Immunizations for Seniors

Although you may be wise beyond your years, your health is something that still needs a little boost each year. Our immune system naturally weakens as we age. Summer is ending, which means fall temperatures can soon result in an increase in illness or infection. Yearly immunizations or vaccinations can help fight off certain diseases.

Immunizations are designed to stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies, just as if you were exposed to the actual disease. Vaccines contain the same germs that cause disease. For example, the flu vaccination contains the actual flu virus. However, the disease has either been killed or weakened so that it won’t make you sick. Unlike other medications and treatments that help cure illnesses, vaccines can actually prevent them.

Here are four vaccines that your doctor may recommend:

  1. Flu – The flu, or influenza, is an annual vaccine. This vaccine is available via shot. For older adults or those who work closely with someone who is at high risk of complications from the flu, it’s recommended that you get your vaccine as early in the flu season as possible. Flu season is typically between October and May. Peak flu season is between December and February. There’s a possibility for some mild side effects, such as aches, low grade fever and nausea.
  2. Shingles – Shingles is a painful skin rash that’s caused by the same virus responsible for chickenpox. If you are age 60 or older, get a shot to prevent shingles. Even if you’ve had shingles, you can still get the shingles vaccine to help prevent future occurrences of the disease.
  3. Pneumococcal - There are currently two types of pneumococcal (pneumonia) vaccines: pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) and pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23). PCV13 is recommended for all adults age 65 or older who haven’t previously had the vaccine. One year later, physicians recommend one dose of PPSV23; this will protect against over 30 different types of pneumococcal bacteria.
  4. Tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough – There are four combination vaccines used to prevent diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough). Tdap can be given no matter when the last tetanus or diphtheria vaccine was received. This vaccination is recommended for older adults, pregnant women who are between 27 and 36 weeks, preteens and teenagers.

The Center for Disease Control outlines a suggested schedule for adults. However, you should consult your primary care physician about what immunizations can be most effective based on your medical history and health risks. 

If you don’t have a primary care physician or would like a physician referral, call 1-800-BayCare (1-800-229-2273).