While the flu vaccine is top of mind in the fall, autumn is also a good time to think about what other vaccines you may need. As people age, their immune system weakens, making them more susceptible to diseases and infections. This is why vaccinations are crucial for the elderly population. Vaccines not only help prevent illnesses but also reduce the risk of complications and hospitalizations.
Caused by the influenza virus, the flu is a contagious respiratory illness that can result in mild or life-threatening illness.
The flu vaccine is recommended for all adults aged 65 and older. Seniors are at a higher risk of developing complications from the flu, including pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus infections. The flu vaccine can help prevent these complications and reduce the severity of symptoms.
Shingles (herpes zoster) is a painful rash caused by varicella zoster, the same virus that causes chicken pox. Shingles occurs when the chicken pox virus reactivates after lying dormant in the body for many years, and it can have long-lasting complications. Anyone who has been exposed to the chicken pox virus can get shingles, but the risk increases as you age.
The shingles vaccine is approved for adults age 50 and older. The CDC recommends two doses of Shingrix separated by two to six months for immunocompetent adults age 50 and older. For people who are or will be immunodeficient or immunosuppressed, the second dose can be given one to two months after the first.
In adults 50 and older who have healthy immune systems, Shingrix is more than 90 percent effective at preventing shingles, and immunity stays strong for at least seven years, per the CDC. There is currently no booster shot for Shingrix.
Pneumococcal Disease and Pneumonia
Pneumonia is a lung infection usually caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. It can cause mild to severe illness in people of all ages, says the CDC
The CDC recommends pneumococcal vaccination for all adults age 65 or older to protect against serious pneumococcal disease, including meningitis and bloodstream infections
When Should You Schedule Your Vaccines?
Older adults should get their flu shots in September or October, ideally by the end of October, according to the CDC. That's because people lose immunity over time, and the vaccine components are updated annually to reflect which strains will be seen in the upcoming year.
You can get pneumococcal, and shingles vaccines year-round. If you want to get them in the fall when you get your flu shot, talk to your doctor. These vaccines can be given with most types of flu vaccines.
Vaccines are crucial for the health and well-being of the elderly population. By getting vaccinated, the elderly can strengthen their immune system and reduce their risk of contracting diseases like the flu, pneumonia, and shingles. Vaccines not only protect the elderly themselves, but also those around them. So if you or your loved one is elderly, make sure to talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated today!