MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. -- Going to the doctor to get shots is medical commonplace for most growing children. However, more and more doctors are urging a new segment of the population to schedule an appointment and receive their vaccinations: seniors.
"It's a common misconception that vaccines are just for kids," said Dr. Margaret Vaughan, a geriatrics and internal medicine doctor at CareMount Medical. "Older adults – those 50 and up – need vaccinations too." Due to weakened immune systems, faded prior immunity and chronic health conditions, seniors are susceptible to a variety of easily preventable infections.
"There are many unfounded fears about vaccine safety which have been circulated, but vaccines are overwhelmingly safe and effective," said Vaughan. Some myths perpetuate that people with chronic health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease can see their conditions worsen with vaccination. "This is not true," said Vaughan. "In virtually every case, vaccines protect those with chronic illnesses from dangerous complications of chronic health conditions."
To help seniors ensure they are up to date on all their immunizations, Vaughan shared what she believes are the most important to check off:
Seasonal Flu Vaccine: The flu is one of the top 10 causes of death for those over age 65 in the United States, according to the National Council of Aging. Vaughan suggests seniors get the flu shot annually, preferably before October.
Pneumococcal Vaccine: Common conditions resulting from infection with pneumococcal disease include pneumonia, meningitis and bacteremia, a bloodstream infection. Pneumococcal disease kills 18,000 Americans 65 and older each year. The vaccine is given in two shots about six to 12 months apart.
Shingles Vaccine: A painful rash caused by the same virus as chickenpox, shingles affects one in three adults in their lifetime. Severe side effects include fever, exhaustion, lack of appetite and potentially, post herpetic neuralgia -- or a post-rash burning sensation.
Tdap (Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis): Tetanus enters the body through a cut or wound whereas Diphtheria and Pertussis are transmitted from person to person. The vaccination thwarts all three of the diseases, which are all very serious.
Hepatitis B Vaccine: A contagious virus transmitted through bodily fluids, the hepatitis B virus can be deadly in older adults. Chronic hepatitis B can lead to liver damage or death.
"Even for those taking prescription medication to manage chronic health conditions, vaccines are still one of the safest methods to protect your health," said Vaughan. "By including a vaccination conversation as part of your annual health discussion with your doctor, you will be better able to keep yourself, your family and your community healthy.
To learn more about Dr. Vaughan or to schedule immunizations, click here.