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The Role of Immunizations in the Health of Seniors

Just like children, seniors need to be immunized too in order to protect themselves against certain illnesses and diseases. Many preventable diseases can bring about serious illness and even death in senior citizens who fail to get the proper vaccinations. In fact, 45,000 adults die every year from complications due to vaccine-preventable diseases, says John Muir Health. You may not think you need vaccines or perhaps you have heard of side effects that come with the vaccine itself. However, the fact of the matter is, if you are 65 or older, you are at an increased risk of complications from certain diseases. It can be difficult to keep track of the vaccines you need, especially if you are receiving home health care, but that’s what your home health care team is there for.

You may think just because you got a vaccine as a child, that you never need it again. Truth is, those vaccines have probably faded in your system and another dose is needed to keep you current and protected. Some vaccines, like for the flu and pneumonia — while they sound simple now — can protect your life later if you get sick.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM), the purpose of which is to raise awareness about immunizations across the lifespan, from infants to the elderly, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. This is a great time to take stock every year and make sure you’re up-to-date on vaccines and to make your appointment to get the flu vaccine.

According to, one or more of the following vaccines will be needed, even if you got these vaccines when you were younger. These vaccines can prevent:

  • Influenza (Flu)
  • Shingles (Zoster)
  • Diphtheria
  • Tetanus
  • Pertussis (whooping cough)
  • Pneumonia

Why Each Vaccine is Needed

The doctors and nurses on your home health care team can administer vaccines as needed if you are in a home health care setting. If you are still able to visit your doctor’s office, be sure to ask him or her which vaccines you need and when. Chances are, they will have you on a schedule already. Some you take just once, while others you take seasonally, such as the flu vaccine.

Let’s go more into depth on which vaccines you need and why:

  • Influenza vaccine: You’ll need this every year, even if you’re considered a healthy adult. You especially need this if you have an underlying high-risk condition, such as heart disease or diabetes. This vaccine is updated every year and is available typically between September through April.
  • Pneumococcal vaccine: Pneumonia causes the death of about 60,000 seniors every year. This one-time vaccination is for those over the age of 65.
  • Zoster vaccine: This is a relatively new vaccine that can prevent or minimize an outbreak of shingles, which is a painful, contagious blistering rash. The vaccine isn’t a cure-all; it can reduce your risk of the disease by 50 percent. At the very least, it can minimize the severity of the symptoms.
  • Tetanus-Diphtheria-Pertussis (Tdap): If you are younger than the age of 64, you’ll need this to replace your earlier series of tetanus vaccines. This will include the added component of pertussis. If you are older than 65, you just need the tetanus-diphtheria vaccine without pertussis. More seniors these days are susceptible to whopping cough, which is likely due to fading immunity.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle depends greatly on exercise and diet, to be sure. But it also depends a lot on the immunizations you get and how well you adhere to the schedule. If you have questions about vaccines or are leery of them in any way, talk to your doctor or home health care team. They can show you the benefits to immunizations, especially in older adults. Just like infants and children, seniors are much more susceptible to certain diseases than the general population. One small sickness can lead to death such as in the case of the flu, so it’s important to protect yourself now.

According to the National Council on Aging, cooler temperatures weaken our immune system, making us more susceptible to illness and infection. Get your flu vaccine before the fall hits! The good news is, all of these vaccines are covered by Medicare, so cost should not be a concern.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

If you need more information for yourself or a loved one on the vaccines necessary at this stage of life, Pathways Home Health and Hospice can help connect you with the right resources. Contact us today at 888-755-7855 to learn more. Our home health team offers comprehensive services for those recovering from an illness or surgery, managing a chronic disease, or coping with a life-threatening condition. Lean on us for guidance.