Seniors also need vaccines. Not all vaccines are just for children. In fact, there are some vaccines that are very important for seniors to take like the tetanus diphtheria (TD) vaccine, the pneumococcal vaccine, the shingles vaccine, the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and annual flu shots.
Tetanus Diphtheria (TD) Vaccine
In fact, the tetanus diphtheria (TD) vaccine or boosters need to be taken by all adults every 10 years. This is especially important for people who do gardening and work with animals, as tetanus spores are found wherever animals and dirt are. There are reported cases where people have contracted tetanus just by being pricked by a thorn on a rose bush. However, once kids become adults they often fail to keep up with TD boosters every 10 years. Tetanus is a horrifying disease that causes violent excruciating painful muscle spasms, especially in the jaws; hence tetanus has been called lock-jaw. Also, diphtheria, which is a very serious lung disease that was thought to be going extinct is making a comeback, mainly because some people do not vaccinate their children.
The Pneumococcal Vaccine
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the pneumococcal vaccine for all seniors over the age of 65, which is given in two separate injections. The pneumococcal vaccine protects against a kind of bacteria that can cause serious kinds of pneumonia, meningitis, blood poisoning, and ear and sinus infections in small children and seniors. Every year about 18,000 seniors age 65 years or older die and thousands more end up in the hospital because of infections caused by pneumococcal bacteria.
The Shingles Vaccine
Herpes zoster, more commonly known as shingles, can be a serious disease in seniors. It is caused by the same herpes virus that causes chicken pox. The chicken pox virus never leaves the body of people who get chicken pox. It lies dormant for years somewhere near the spinal cord, and for some reason can erupt again in old age as shingles, which is an entirely different disease. In fact, aging is the greatest risk for developing shingles and the risk increases with age. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) estimates that one in three people will get shingles as they age.
Shingles is usually a more serious disease than the childhood version of the virus known as chicken pox. Shingles attacks the nerves or blocks of nerves in the body. It usually begins with an unusual looking rash that resembles shingles on a roof. Shingles can take weeks, months and even years to go dormant. In fact, some people get a chronic state of shingles and chronic pain called post herpetic neuralgia. Shingles can greatly interfere with the quality of life. Fortunately, there is a new vaccine against shingles called Shingrex, which is more than 90% effective, which replaces the former Zostavax vaccine. Shingrex needs to be given in two separate injections and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warn that shortages due to a high demand that began in 2018 may continue throughout 2019. See our blog post from February 14, 2018, to read more about Shingrex, the new shingles vaccine.
Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR)
Measles, mumps and rubella tend to be much more serious and even deadly when they strike at seniors. If you had these diseases as a child you are most likely never going to get them again. However, if you did not have these diseases in childhood and were never vaccinated against these diseases, then you should check with your doctor about getting the MMR vaccine. In fact, right now measles has made a comeback in several countries and there are also outbreaks in the United States and so the CDC is recommending the MMR vaccination. Measles is one of the most contagious diseases and is easily spread by sneezing and coughing or just breathing. According to the CDC, if a person has measles, 90% of people around this person will also catch it. Measles can lead to permanent disabilities like deafness and brain damage.
The influenza vaccine commonly called the flu shot is different from most other vaccines that are given only once or twice to give lifelong immunity. The flu shot has to be given every year, as it has to be tailored to whatever flu strains are in season. There is a need for a universal flu vaccine that would only have to be given once or twice to give lifelong immunity to all strains of the flu and scientists are trying to produce it and hopefully they will soon succeed. Read more about the need for improving the flu vaccine for seniors in our blog post from October 11, 2018.
Choose a Rehab or Skilled Nursing Facility where the Staff are Vaccinated for the Flu
If you or your loved one are looking for a rehab or skilled nursing facility that cares enough about you to require that their staff be vaccinated for the flu, check out the Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York.
The old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” certainly sums up the benefits of vaccines that can save suffering, disabilities and lives.