The COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are vitally important, but there are other immunizations that are necessary for older adults as well. Encouraging an older loved one to keep up with their vaccine schedule is especially important because they are at a higher risk of severe illness. Nightingale Homecare, a leading Phoenix home care agency, shares the latest recommendations for vaccines for older adults to help you or an aging loved one protect against serious illness.
Why Are Vaccines Important as We Age?
Although immunizations are important throughout our lives, they are especially important as people age for several reasons:
- The immune system, which helps fight infections, slows or weakens as people get older.
- Older adults may have more chronic health conditions that make them more vulnerable to infection.
- With a weakened immune system, the body is less able to fight off infection.
Recommended Vaccines for Older Adults
It is important to talk with a doctor to find out which vaccines are recommended for older loved ones and to make sure to stay current with any vaccine boosters as well. The following immunizations are recommended for aging adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
Flu shot – The flu shot helps to prevent influenza, a virus that causes fevers, chills, aches, sore throat, and other symptoms. The flu is often mild for many people, but it can be serious and even life threatening for older adults or people with chronic illness, such as asthma, diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease or a past stroke. These individuals also have a higher risk of developing a secondary infection, such as pneumonia, while the body is trying to fight off the flu. The flu vaccine helps to reduce the risk of serious illness from the flu virus.
All adults should receive an annual flu shot before the end of October. If that timeframe isn’t possible, it’s still beneficial to get the vaccine as soon as possible because flu season continues into January. Flu vaccines take at least two weeks to be effective. They are given annually because the virus changes and because protection from the vaccine lessens over time. Additionally, there are several types of flu vaccines available including higher-dose immunizations designed to be more effective in adults aged 65 and older.
Pneumonia vaccine – The pneumonia vaccine helps to protect against the pneumococcal bacteria that causes pneumonia, a serious infection that affects the lungs. Pneumonia can lead to severe illness and even death in older adults.
The CDC recommends that adults age 65 and older receive a pneumonia vaccination to help reduce the risk of serious infection. There are different types of pneumonia vaccine, so talk with the doctor to see which one is right for a senior loved one.
Shingles vaccine – Shingles is caused by same virus as chickenpox. Once a person has had chickenpox, the virus remains in the body and can become active as the individual ages. Shingles affects the nerves and can cause a rash with blisters and pain, tingling, burning, or itching even after the rash disappears, which is called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN). The shingles vaccine can help prevent shingles and PHN.
Adults age 50 and older should receive the shingles vaccine, which is given as two doses over two to six months apart. Anyone who has had shingles or who received the Zostavax vaccine, a previous shingles vaccine that is no longer available, should receive the vaccine.
Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine – Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough) are caused by bacteria. Most people are vaccinated for these diseases as children, but research shows that immunity to pertussis decreases with age. The CDC recommends that all adults get the Tdap vaccine if not received as a child and then Td (tetanus, diphtheria) boosters every 10 years. Newborn infants are especially susceptible to pertussis, so it is important for adults to be vaccinated before visiting any grandchildren or young infants. The vaccine takes at least two weeks to be effective.
Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) booster – Although children typically receive the MMR vaccine, some adults may need to get at least one dose. Anyone born in 1957 or later who doesn’t have evidence of measles immunity should receive the MMR vaccine. Evidence of immunity usually includes vaccination records or blood tests. Individuals born before 1957 are considered immune, according to the CDC.
COVID-19 vaccine and boosters – COVID-19 vaccines help to prevent serious illness, hospitalizations, and death in older adults. Keeping up with boosters can help provide protection that has decreased since the last dose while providing protection against newer variants. As of October 2022, it is recommended that everyone aged 5 and older receive COVID-19 vaccinations and any boosters for which they are eligible. There are different versions of the COVID-19 vaccine and boosters, so speak with the doctor to determine which one is best for a senior loved one.
Where to Find Vaccines
Talk with a physician to see which vaccines are recommended based on an older loved one’s health history and medical conditions. The doctor can also help determine if there are any reasons that an older adult should not receive particular immunizations or if they should delay receiving specific vaccines.
After determining which vaccines should be received, the following resources can help identify where they are available:
- Vaccines.gov – The CDC’s vaccine finder tool for COVID-19 and flu vaccines
- Doctor’s office
- Local health department
How Home Care Can Help
At Nightingale Homecare, a leading Phoenix home care agency, we care about the health and wellness of older adults. We offer a variety of customizable caregiving, nursing, and other in-home services to help older adults live safe and enjoyable lives in the comfort of home. Our caregivers can provide transportation to medical appointments, such as getting vaccines, and can watch for any adverse effects following an immunization as well. Contact us at (602) 504-1555 or online to learn more about our caregiving services throughout Maricopa County.