Protecting you and yours
By Bryan Goodland; courtesy photo
As the cold and flu season approaches, many Castle Pines community residents both young and old are considering seasonal vaccinations. This is especially true for those age 65 and older. While there may be concern about side effects from vaccinations, seniors are at a higher risk of complications from the actual diseases. There are four vaccinations that seniors should consider discussing with their physicians – influenza, pneumococcal, zoster and tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis (Tdap).
The vaccine for influenza, commonly referred to as the flu shot is a quick and relatively painless procedure. It is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC) that adults 65 years and older should get the flu vaccine every season with rare exceptions. There are even flu shots that are specifically approved for seniors.
The flu can be more than just feeling miserable for a few days, for some it can be deadly. The CDC estimates that for the 2019-2020 flu season there were 8 million illnesses, 18 million medical visits, 405,000 hospitalizations, and 22,000 deaths. Deaths occurred at a much higher rate for those 65 and over. In addition to aiding in the prevention of the spreading of the flu, a shot may be a lifesaving measure.
Pneumonia is responsible for 60,000 deaths a year. The pneumococcal vaccine helps in preventing pneumonia in seniors. This vaccine is not given annually like the flu shot. People with a long-term health condition may need just a single shot or vaccinations every 5 years, depending upon the underlying health conditions. It is recommended that individuals 65 and older get another pneumococcal booster every five years.
Shingles is a painful rash consisting of blisters that scab over and, in some cases, cause an intense burning sensation. For some people, the pain lingers and is called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN). The likelihood of developing a PHN complication increases as one ages. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), one in three people will get shingles in their lifetime.
A live zoster vaccine to prevent shingles was developed in 2006 (Zostavax). In 2017, a recombinant zoster vaccine was released (Shingrix). The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices as well as HHS recommends Shingrix as the preferred vaccine, but individuals should consult with their physician to determine the best course for prevention.
Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a respiratory infection and is typically considered a childhood disease. Its rise in the senior population is likely from fading immunity. Individuals that are 65 and older may want to consider the Tdap vaccination. This vaccination provides protection for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.
Many of these statistics are daunting, but with vaccinations, much of the direness is preventable. Most vaccinations are often covered under a variety of health plans and can even be found affordably through various options like an employer, the county health department, or the Veterans Administration if one qualifies.
The benefits of vaccinations include reduction of illnesses, relief for hospitals and physicians and, of course, overall health. After discussing which vaccinations are best for personal preventative care with one’s physician, availability for receiving the vaccine(s) is widely accessible. There are many locations, like pharmacies and grocery stores in addition to hospitals, healthcare clinics or doctor’s offices. Getting vaccinated is easy and may not even require a scheduled appointment.