A: According to David Siskind, MD, DABFP, CMD, Director of Medicine at the Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Commack, NY, seniors most certainly do need vaccinations. As we get older, our bodies’ immune defenses become weaker, making us more susceptible to contracting illness, and to becoming sicker or even dying from those illnesses. His thoughts on vaccinations follow:
Flu: This is an important annual vaccination for seniors. According to the CDC, seniors (those over 65) account for more than 70% of the flu-related deaths and as much as 70% of the flu-related hospitalizations. Strains of the flu are constantly changing; the annual vaccine protects against the flu strains that are expected to be active for the upcoming season. At the nursing & rehabilitation center, we begin vaccinations of our residents in early October, to be sure their immunity is built up by the time we see cases of the flu. The vaccine is safe for most people; of course, each person should consult their physician prior to being vaccinated to avoid contraindications.
Pneumonia: Seniors should also be protected with a pneumococcal vaccination. Pneumococcal pneumonia can develop as a complication of the flu, so this extra protection is smart. In addition, the vaccine protects against other infections, such as blood stream infections and certain meningitis infections. Currently, the CDC recommends two pneumococcal vaccines for seniors, which protect against different organisms that can cause infection. Again, seniors should always consult with their physician to determine which vaccines are recommended for them.
Varicella Zoster: Better known as the “shingles vaccine,” this vaccination is recommended for seniors as well. Those who have had the chicken pox are susceptible to contracting shingles, a painful, debilitating rash that generally affects one side of the body. The pain can linger for months or more. Seniors should discuss the vaccine with their doctors; even if they don’t remember having the chicken pox or have already had shingles, it is still recommended that they receive the vaccination.
Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis: Many physicians also advocate for seniors to receive the Tdap vaccine booster to prevent tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. While most adults received this vaccination as children, boosters are required to ensure immunity. Again, each senior should speak to his or her health care professional to determine if it is recommended.
Vaccinations are important to our seniors. By vaccinating them from common illnesses, we can help to promote a healthy, active lifestyle.
Dr. Siskind is board certified in family practice and hospice and palliative medicine.
He has been at Gurwin since 2011.
Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center
68 Hauppauge Rd, Commack, NY 11725