As we passed through the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, there seemed to be a battle between two schools of thought: to “vaccine” or not to “vaccine”. While the question was brought to focus due to the health crisis and was on the minds of people of all ages, this is a question that has always affected seniors.
What illnesses or conditions should seniors be concerned about when it comes to vaccines? Are they recommended for seniors? Can a senior (or anyone) get ill from a vaccine?
What is a vaccine?
Merriam-Webster defines a vaccine as, “a preparation that is administered (as by injection) to stimulate the body’s immune response against a specific infectious agent or disease“. Back in the day those of us who are older referred to them as “getting your shots”.
The Oxford Dictionary explains a little further, “a substance used to stimulate the production of antibodies and provide immunity against one or several diseases, prepared from the causative agent of a disease, its products, or a synthetic substitute, treated to act as an antigen without inducing the disease”.
In layman’s terms, it’s an injection of the tiniest (weakened or dead) amount of the disease or virus, which helps your body to activate your natural antibodies. Your immune system then learns that this virus is an “attack” on your body and creates a fight response. Once this response has been “learned”, your immune system will remember this and will protect you in the future.
The first known vaccines were tested and used just prior to the 1800’s, to combat cowpox in England. Since that time, vaccinations have successfully battled, reduced mortality rates and even eradicated some of the following illnesses:
- Diphtheria* (1940s)
- Tetanus* (1940s)
- Pertussis* (1940s)
- Smallpox (1940s)
- Influenza (1940s)
- Polio (IPV) (1950s)
- Measles** (1960s)
- Mumps** (1960s)
- Rubella** (1960s)
- Hib (1980s)
- Hepatitis B (1990s)
- Varicella (Chickenpox) (1990s)
- Rotavirus (1990s)
- Hepatitis A (2000s)
- Pneumococcal (2000s)
- Influenza* Given in combination as DTaP
* Given in combination as DTaP
** Given in combination as MMR
As you can see, there is a long history of vaccination research, development and success around the world. Diseases that have been eliminated (or almost eliminated) because of vaccination include:
- Rinderpest (a type of cattle plague)
- Whooping cough
Will I get sick from a vaccine?
One of the misconceptions of vaccination is that getting a shot will make you sick. Technically this is untrue. But as with any medications, there can be side effects.
We’ve all heard stories from someone who said that they got the flu after getting their flu shot. But because most vaccinations include an inactive virus, they can’t technically make you sick. The most common explanations for feeling ill after getting a shot (regardless of type of vaccination) are:
- Side effects – like body aches, fever, headache, site soreness, nausea
- A different viral illness, such as a cold or the flu, occurring at the same time
- You hadn’t achieved immunity yet – vaccinations can take up to two weeks to take effect. In this period of time, you can still get the virus (such as the flu, a cold or Covid-19)
Are there age-specific vaccinations a senior should consider?
For seniors, due to the complications of the below illnesses, it’s recommended that older adults get the following shots:
- Shingles (55+)
- Pneumonia / Pneumococcal disease
- Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough)
The above illnesses can have serious repercussions for older adults, such as extreme respiratory illness that can lead to long-term health issues, shortened life-span or even death.
Although vaccination in general is recommended by the CDC, especially for seniors, getting a vaccine is your personal health choice. The most important part of your decision should be getting well educated on vaccination and knowing your personal risks. If you or your loved one have questions or concerns, the best thing to do is always to speak with the family healthcare professional.
~ ~ ~
Do you have questions about how you can better support your loved one while they age in place in South Florida or regarding homecare in general? Please contact CareGivers of America here: Contact or call us toll free: 800-342-4197
To join our amazing mailing list where you’ll receive special content, click here.
*No information in this article is to be taken as advice, medical or otherwise. This post is not sponsored, but may contain external links to websites, articles or product examples. External links are used for example or reference purposes only and these links do not indicate specific product or website endorsement by CareGivers of America.