Aker Kasten Blog

Vaccination Recommendations

by: John Aker | July 22nd, 2011

Vaccination Recommendations for Older People by Simeon Margolis, M.D., Ph.D.

Jul 22, 2011 As seen on Yahoo! Health

Flu: Influenza (flu) vaccine

Many older people think they don’t need to worry about something as insignificant as the flu. But an annual vaccination against influenza virus is recommended each fall or winter for adults of all ages. Although earlier studies probably overestimated the dangers of influenza in the elderly, bouts of the flu can produce severe symptoms, may require hospitalization, and can be fatal. Influenza is also recognized to increase the risk of heart attacks. One problem is that the flu vaccine is less effective in older individuals. Nonetheless, the vaccine offers at least some protection for most older individuals and should be obtained each year.

Pneumonia: pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (Pneumovax 23)

Another common and potentially dangerous illness is pneumonia. There are about four million cases of pneumonia each year in the U.S., and the pneumococcus is the most common agent leading to hospitalization for pneumonia in people of all ages. Influenza infection greatly increases the risk of developing pneumococcal pneumonia. The pneumonia may be mild and easily treated, but some develop an overwhelming infection that can be fatal.

This vaccine can protect against pneumonia that is caused by the 23 types of the pneumococcus bacterium that are responsible for the vast majority of pneumococcal pneumonia. However, it offers no protection against pneumonia caused by the other 60 or more types of pneumococcus, or by other bacteria or viruses. Recommendations: the vaccine should be given one time to all people who are 65 or older with no prior pnumococcal vaccination or when the history of vaccination is unknown. The vaccine should also be given for those 65 or older if it’s been five years since a previous vaccination. The vaccine is also recommended for some who are younger than 65, for example those with liver disease, diabetes, or chronic heart or lung diseases.

Shingles: Herpes zoster (Zostavax)

Shingles results from activation of the varicella virus that causes chicken pox and then remains dormant for many years. Shingles can attack any of the 95 percent of adult Americans who have had chicken pox. As a result, between 10 and 20 percent of them will develop shingles during their lifetime. Most often shingles begins with an unexplained throbbing or burning pain in a limited area on one side of the chest or lower back. Days to weeks later a painful rash appears and evolves into pus-filled blisters with the same band-like distribution as the pain. The rash is not contagious, but bacteria may infect the blisters.

Recommendation: because the incidence of shingles increases progressively with age, the vaccine in recommended for everyone 60 years of age or older. The zoster vaccine (Zostavax) is given as a single, one-time injection, regardless of a previous history of herpes zoster (shingles) or chicken pox.

Contraindications to giving these vaccines

A vaccine should not be given to an individual who has had a prior severe reaction to the vaccine or at a time when he or she is suffering from a moderate to severe acute illness.

Other possible vaccines

A booster injection against tetanus is recommended every 10 years. Some older people may wish to get protection against hepatitis A and/or B, especially if they will be travelling to underdeveloped countries or are exposed to people with a high likelihood of these disorders.

Check with your doctor about your need for all of these vaccines. We will even accompany you to your doctor’s office to help you understand the information they provide. Call Aker Kasten Home Health Care today at 561-955-6010 or 561-737-4990.


The content of this Aker Kasten Home Health Care Agency News page is meant to educate, but it should not be used as a substitute for personal medical advice. The reader should consult his or her physician or clinician for specific information concerning specific medical conditions. While all reasonable efforts have been made to ensure that all information presented is accurate, as research and development in the medical field is ongoing, it is possible that new findings may supersede some data presented.

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