Senior Health: What’s the vaccine routine for seniors?
Plus, interesting vaccine facts and history.
Vaccines have been the big story this year, and August officially is National Immunization Awareness Month. In honor of National Immunization Awareness Month, we’re looking at some interesting vaccine facts and history, plus the vaccines most often recommended for seniors.
Vaccine Facts and History
Did you know that vaccines have been around for at least a thousand years? We often think of vaccines as an invention of Western medicine, but the history of vaccines goes back much further. Learn more:
- Long before the first vaccine was invented in the West, variolation was used to prevent smallpox. Variolation is the practice of inoculating healthy people with small amounts of material from people who are ill. It was used effectively as early as 1000 C.E. in China, and also in Egypt, Turkey and Africa.
- Edward Jenner, a British scientist, is credited with the development of the first modern vaccine (for smallpox) in 1796.
- The word vaccine comes from “vacca,” the Latin word for cow. It refers to the use of the cowpox virus in Edward Jenner’s vaccine.
- The concept behind most vaccines in use today (using weakened versions of a virus) was invented by Louis Pasteur in 1879. He discovered it by chance, when he got curious about the effects of virus samples that his assistant accidently left unsealed in the laboratory.
- Jonas Salk is known as the inventor of the polio vaccine. However, together with Dr. Thomas Francis, Jr., he also developed the flu vaccine.
- The flu vaccine was first available for the public in the U.S. in 1945. Today, about half of the U.S. population gets a yearly flu shot.
- Smallpox was declared fully eradicated in 1980, due to worldwide vaccination efforts.
Vaccines for Seniors
Vaccine recommendations change with age and overall health status, so it is important to understand which vaccines are available for your senior loved one.
Following are some of the vaccines commonly recommended for seniors. As with any medical treatment, be sure to consult with your loved one’s physician. Each senior’s health is unique, and some vaccines are not recommended for seniors with certain conditions.
- Covid Vaccine/Covid Booster. The Covid vaccine is recommended for all who are physically well enough to receive it. The vaccine can prevent infection or reduce severity, and reduce the likelihood of transmitting it to others. As of this writing, the CDC has not yet made recommendations regarding a Covid booster shot for seniors.
- Flu Shot. Yearly flu shots provide protection for the strains of flu that are predicted for the year. The vaccines are developed based on the flu season in the southern hemisphere. The flu can be much more serious for seniors than for younger adults.
- Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox and can have long-term effects. If someone has had chicken pox (or been exposed to it), the virus can be re-activated by factors like stress, medication, or other illness.
A recently released shingles vaccine is more effective than earlier shingles vaccines. Even if you and your loved one have been vaccinated, ask your physician whether the new vaccine is recommended for you.
- Pneumococcal Vaccine. The vaccine that protects against pneumonia is given in two doses. The timing depends on individual risk factors. Pneumonia is much more likely to be severe in those over 65 and in young children.
- Tdap (Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis). Tdap is an updated version of the tetanus and diphtheria vaccine. It now protects against pertussis (whooping cough), too. If you or your loved one will be around infant grandkids or great grandkids, this updated vaccine can be helpful. It can also serve as the tetanus and diphtheria booster shot, which is recommended every ten years.
Your loved one’s physician may also recommend additional vaccines based on specific health conditions.
What’s your vaccine routine? With yearly flu shots available starting this month, August is a good time to check your senior loved one’s vaccine records (and your own). Schedule a routine physical to talk with your physician about a safe and healthful vaccine routine.
All of us at Sunnyside Manor wish you safe, happy, and healthy summer.
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