August is National Immunization Awareness Month, which focuses on promoting vaccinations to prevent serious illness and to save lives. Many mistakenly believe that immunizations are only necessary for infants and young children. But vaccines are not just for kids. Seniors in Michigan needs their shots, too.

As we grow older, our immune system weakens, putting each of us at a greater risk of life-threatening diseases that are often times preventable with a simple vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that as many as 70,000 adults lose their life each year from vaccine-preventable illnesses. It is vital that you know which vaccines are recommended for your Michigan senior loved one to ensure they are protected.

Immunizations for seniors over age 65

The CDC recommends an annual flu shot and several one-time vaccinations for your senior loved one.

  • Influenza or flu vaccine: This annual shot is a must for older adults. The flu can be deadly to people of all ages, but kills more seniors than any other group. Almost 90% of flu-related deaths are in adults over the age of 65. Seniors also account for more than 50% of hospitalizations for the influenza virus.

This important vaccine reduces the likelihood that an older adult in your care will contract the flu virus. If they do, the symptoms are less likely to be severe and less likely to require a costly hospital stay.

The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends your senior get the influenza vaccine in October or November to ensure they are protected through the peak season.

  • Pneumonia vaccine: Pneumonia is responsible for almost 50,000 deaths in older adults each year. It is also the leading cause of hospitalization in Americans over the age of 65. This one-time vaccination, covered by Medicare, can protect against 23 different strains of bacterial pneumonia.

The Pneumovax immunization also helps to prevent infections of the bloodstream and bacterial meningitis.

Recently, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended that seniors also receive an additional dose of a new pneumonia vaccine that prevents 11 more types of this life-threatening disease. Prevnar13 is not yet covered by Medicare and costs up to $150.

  • Shingles vaccine: Seniors over 60 are more prone to shingles, a painful and long-lasting skin rash caused by the chicken pox virus. The one-time Zostavax vaccine lowers the risk of contracting this infection by 50%. If your senior loved one does come down with shingles, the shot reduces the severity of the rash and the level of pain.

The shingles vaccine can be given even after an outbreak, preventing further infection.

Vaccines for special circumstances

Additional vaccinations may be required based on medical need.

  • Tdap: This vaccine is the tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis booster for adults who may or may not have been given the DTP vaccine when they were younger. The one-time shot was added to the CDC’s recommended vaccinations list after a recent outbreak of whooping cough, or pertussis, which is deadly in infants.
  • Hepatitis A and B: Physicians often administer these vaccines to seniors in assisted living communities and nursing homes, where an outbreak may occur.

To track vaccines for a loved one in your care, you may want to use a Vaccine Administration Record.

Vaccinations are an important part of your senior loved one’s health and well-being. Check with their health care provider to make sure they are protected. For more information about vaccinating a senior loved one, visit US Department of Health and Human Services Senior Vaccine Schedule.

Photo Courtesy