Immunizations protect everyone, from infants to seniors, from serious diseases like the measles, pertussis and diphtheria. World Immunization Week, held this year from April 24-30, is an opportunity for you, as a health professional, to encourage your patients to receive the proper vaccinations. As senior patients become more vulnerable to various illnesses as they age, it's particularly important to emphasize how getting vaccinated for prevalent diseases is fundamental to maintaining their health.
What shots should you recommend for senior patients?
Remind your senior patients that even though they may have received a certain vaccination when they were young, this doesn't mean they will never need it again. For example, seniors who have received just one dose of the chickenpox vaccine may need to be vaccinated again, as the chickenpox virus can lead to severe side effects and serious complications when developed during the later stages of life. It's also common for people over 60 years old to get shingles, a painful skin rash that affects approximately 1 million Americans each year and causes sores and blisters to develop across the body, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC highly recommended that seniors get vaccinated for shingles, especially those with weakened immune systems due to chronic conditions, as they're at an even greater risk.
Encourage older patients who haven't received important pneumococcal vaccines to get them as soon as possible. Vaccines such as PCV13 and PPSV23 were made specifically for seniors aged 65 or older and will protect patients against infections in the lungs and bloodstream. Patients with chronic health conditions are often the ones who develop these infections, so it's essential to advise them to get vaccinated.
Every year, elderly patients should receive the flu vaccine, as the symptoms of the flu can be a lot more severe for seniors than they are for younger people due to their weakened immune systems. The Fluzone high-dose trivalent shot was made specifically for people 65 years of age and older, and has been very effective at keeping seniors healthy.
What facts should you share?
If your patients are resistant to getting the shots they need to stay healthy, inform them that immunizations prevent between 2-3 million deaths every year, according to Vaccines.gov. Receiving the appropriate shots is the best way to protect themselves from diseases that their demographic is most vulnerable to. Getting the flu vaccine, for example, is the single most effect way to stay healthy during flu season.
Similarly, PCV13 and PPSV23 are key to fighting off serious infections that can impact the brain and spinal cord. Vaccines.gov noted that there are more than 90 types of pneumococcal bacteria that put seniors are risk of infection. These two vaccines protect patients from 23 types, drastically lowering their chances of developing serious illnesses like meningitis and bactermia.
Educating your patients on the diseases they're most at risk of and how there are immunizations to lower their chances of experiencing these serious conditions may give them the push they need to get the proper vaccinations. If you'd like to take a more active approach at communicating this essential information with patients, joining in the awareness efforts during World Immunization Week is a great place to start.