It’s a natural tendency to put things off, and this is especially true of our seniors. According to a 2017 survey by the CDC, about 30% of seniors over 65 have not had a flu vaccine in the past twelve months, half have failed to get a tetanus vaccine in the last ten years, and at least 40% have never received a pneumococcal vaccine. These are startling figures since as we age, our immune systems gradually become less vigorous, leading to more frequent infections and increased chances of developing severe complications.
Below are four of the primary vaccines available to seniors. Of course, each individual should visit with a doctor to determine exactly which vaccines they should get and review any health issues they might have. Always follow the advice of your physician.
Fall is the time of year for getting the flu vaccine. Each year the CDC directs vaccine producers to manufacture vaccines thought to target the most likely influenza strains for that season. The vaccine can be obtained at many outlets including Emergency Hospital Systems emergency rooms with four convenient locations: two in Cleveland, and one each in Spring and Humble.
The effectiveness of the vaccine varies yearly depending on the composition of the specific vaccine. Nevertheless, having the vaccine not only reduces the chances of catching the flu but may help reduce its severity should it be caught.
A new shingles vaccine, called Shingrix, was approved in 2017 and is currently available for seniors. Because it has only recently been approved, it’s a good idea to check with your provider to ensure they have it on hand. This vaccine is taken in two shots, spaced two to six months apart. It has been shown to be as much as 90% effective at preventing shingles and should be taken by seniors even if they have had the older shingles vaccine, or have had shingles.
Pneumonia and other diseases caused by pneumococcal bacteria are a leading cause of death in seniors. Symptoms of pneumonia include high fevers, shortness of breath, coughing and hacking, and chest pains. In seniors, these symptoms are sometimes accompanied by confusion. The bacterium pneumococcus can cause, not only pneumonia but also meningitis and bacteremia (bacteria in the blood, which can lead to sepsis.) In 2017 deaths in the elderly amounted to more than 49,000 or 15.1 deaths per 100,000 population. This vaccine is an essential component of any senior health program.
The Tdap booster vaccine protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough.) These are most often given in childhood, but research has shown that their effectiveness decreases over time. Seniors should be especially careful if they haven’t had the booster and are around infants or very young children. Adults can have the bacterium without having full symptoms. This disease can then be passed on to infants and cause a severe life-threatening respiratory illness. A booster shot can protect the senior as well as those around them so having one is a good idea.
As with all things medical, it is essential to never self-diagnose and to always follow the advice of your physician. The professional staff at Emergency Hospital Systems’ emergency rooms can assess your situation and provide you with proper medical care as well as administer the vaccines you require. We have four locations conveniently located in our communities with two in Deerfield, and one each in Spring and Humble. We welcome walk-ins, our wait times are short, and there is plenty of free parking. We’re here to help keep you healthy. For information or to schedule an appointment, call our main office at 281-592-5400.