When was the last time you or a loved one discussed immunizations with your doctor? If you’re like many Americans, chances are you didn’t even realize immunizations are needed beyond childhood. But research has shown that immunity can fade over time, and susceptibility to disease increases with age. In fact, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicare Services estimates that almost 50,000 American adults die each year from diseases that could have been prevented by vaccines.
So how do you know what vaccines are needed by you or a loved one? A health care professional will need to make this determination, but it helps to arrive at appointments with some research in hand. To get you started, here are three of the most important vaccine-preventable diseases you may want to guard against:
- Influenza (flu) – The flu is a virus that can be fatal, particularly to those who are 65 or older. Vaccines for the flu, typically called a flu shot, are often recommended on an annual basis for older adults and caregivers.
- Pneumococcal Disease – This bacterial infection can cause illnesses including pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis. Adults age 65-plus and caregivers can benefit from a one-time immunization against this disease, although booster shots are often recommended for high-risk individuals.
- Pertussis (whooping cough) – This highly contagious respiratory cough most commonly affects infants and young children, but is passed through adults. Adults aged 65-plus are encouraged to get a one-time “Tdap” booster – which protects against pertussis, tetanus and diphtheria – if they have close contact with infants younger than 12 months.
When considering a vaccination, seek advice from your family doctor or at community health clinics. The HealthMap Vaccine Finder, provided by Boston Children’s Hospital, is a convenient way to locate places in your area where you or a loved one can get vaccinated. For a complete list of recommended vaccines for adults, download the CDC’s adult immunization schedule.
This post was originally published by Care Conversations, a program that helps families talk about health, aging and long-term care plans. For more information like this, visit careconversations.org.