August is National Immunization Awareness Month. Back-to-school preparedness requires more than just buying supplies and some new clothing for the kids. It also extends to making sure all of your family members are up-to-date with immunizations. What may surprise you is that many older adults are unaware they, too, need immunizations. From shingles to whooping cough, seniors aren’t always aware of what vaccines they need.
The anti-vaccination or “anti-vaxx” movement has led to serious health problems for some communities, especially among children too young to receive vaccines and those with compromised immunity who may have unknowingly let their immunizations lapse. Earlier this spring, for example, fears about vaccinations being linked to Autism caused the worst outbreak of measles in nearly thirty years in Minneapolis.
These are just a few of the many reasons that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared the month of August as National Immunization Awareness Month. It is designed to raise immunization awareness and help people of all ages learn more about which vaccines they need and when they should receive them.
Immunizations, Health Concerns and Older Adults
During National Immunization Month, adult children might want to take time out to share the following list with aging parents and other older loved ones. Some seniors may be familiar with a few of the conditions vaccines can help them avoid, but unaware of others.
- Pertussis (Whooping Cough)
While the flu and pneumonia can be serious for everyone, both can be especially dangerous for seniors. A vaccine might help an older adult avoid getting sick or lessen the severity of their symptoms if they do.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has made it a little easier to determine which vaccines you and the older adults in your life need to discuss with your health care professional. In their helpful Immunization Toolkit you will find The Adult Vaccine Quiz. This tool makes vaccination recommendations for older adults to discuss with their primary care physician based on age, health status, travel plans and more.
And key to creating a healthy immunization schedule is talking with your physician before receiving any vaccinations.
Seniors react differently to immunizations based on their personal health status and medical history. Some vaccinations might help prevent illness or disease in healthy seniors, while actually causing harm to those with certain chronic health conditions.
A few medical conditions and vaccines that don’t always mix include:
- Adenovirus vaccine: This immunization should typically not be given to people over 50 or people undergoing treatment for cancer
- Allergies: Some adults might be allergic to ingredients commonly used in a vaccine. For example, people with some egg allergies may be limited in what type of flu shot they can receive.
- Guillian Barre: People with Guillian Barre Syndrome have a lengthy list of vaccines they may need to avoid, including influenza and tetanus.
Immunizations for Traveling Seniors
Retirees often spent their golden years traveling. It is a time when older adults finally have the freedom they need to explore the world and learn about different cultures. International travel, especially to more exotic lands, might bring new immunization requirements.
There are a variety of resources seniors can use to determine which vaccines they might need before traveling. Here are a few to help you get the conversation about travel immunizations started with your family doctor:
- CDC’s Travel Health Site
- World Health Organization’s Vaccines Page
- Continent by Continent Vaccine Travel List from WebMD
We hope this national immunization month information helps you ensure everyone in your family is on track with their vaccines, no matter what their age!
How do you easily keep track of vaccination schedules for family members? We’d love it if you shared tips with us in the comments below.