National Immunization Awareness Month

Senior Medical - Flu Shot

National Immunization Awareness Month

Immunization for seniors includes the following important vaccines…

Each year in August, we observe National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) as an opportunity to highlight the need for improving national immunization coverage levels. Participation in NAIM is also a way to encourage all people to protect their health by being immunized against infectious diseases.

As a first step to awareness, here are a few important definitions to know…

  1. Vaccine — a product that produces immunity from a disease. It can be administered through a needle injection, by mouth or aerosol
  2. Vaccination — the injection of a killed or weakened organism that produces immunity in the body against that organism
  3. Immunization — the process by which a person becomes protected from a disease. Vaccines cause immunization.

    (Some diseases also cause immunization after an individual recovers from the disease)

Immunization for Seniors

Immunization through vaccination is especially important for seniors, who may be more susceptible to catching an illness due to a weakened or fragile physical condition. Even if vaccines were received as a child or as a younger adult, seniors may need one or more vaccinations to help ensure proper immunization. According to, recommended vaccinations for seniors (age 65 years and older) can prevent:

  • Influenza (Flu)
  • Shingles
  • Diphtheria
  • Tetanus
  • Whooping Cough
  • Pneumonia

Influenza (Flu) Immunization


  • How is it administered?

    The flu vaccine is available by shot or nasal spray.
  • Who should get the vaccine?

    Everyone six months of age and older should get the flu vaccine. It is especially important to get the vaccine if you,

    someone you live with, or someone you care for is at high risk of complications from the flu.
  • What are the side effects?

    Mild reactions such as soreness, headaches, and fever are common.

    If you experience a severe reaction such as difficulty breathing, hives, or facial swelling, seek medical attention immediately


Shingles (Herpes Zoster) Immunization

The only way to reduce the risk of developing shingles and the long-term pain that can follow shingles is to get vaccinated.

  • Who is at risk of getting Shingles?

    You are at risk of shingles if you have had chickenpox.

    Shingles is caused by a reactivation of the chickenpox virus (called varicella zoster).
  • Who should get the Shingles vaccine?

    Zostavax® is the vaccine for shingles. It is licensed for use in people 60 years old and older.

    The older a person is, the more severe the effects of shingles typically are.

    All adults 60 years old or older should get the vaccine.
  • What are the side effects?

    -  Redness, soreness, swelling, or itching at the site of the injection.

    -  Headache


Diphtheria/Tetanus Immunization

Diphtheria is a respiratory disease caused by bacteria that causes a thick covering on the back of the throat.

Everyone needs protection from diphtheria. Several thousand cases of diphtheria occur around the world every year.

Since vaccines have been available, diphtheria cases have fallen by over 99.9%.

Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

Pertussis is a respiratory illness commonly known as whooping cough. It is a very contagious disease caused by a type of bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. Pertussis is found only in humans and is spread from person to person. The best way to prevent pertussis is to get vaccinated.

Combination Vaccines for Diphtheria, Tetanus & Whooping Cough

There are four combination vaccines used to prevent diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough):

  1. DTaP Vaccine – ONLY given to children younger than 7 years of age
  2. Tdap Vaccine – given to older children and adults
  3. DT Vaccine – ONLY given to children younger than 7 years of age
  4. TD Vaccine – given to older children and adults

What are the Side Effects of the TD Vaccine?

  • Brief Fainting Spells

    Fainting spells and related symptoms (such as jerking movements) can happen after any medical procedure, including vaccination. Sitting or lying down for about 15 minutes after a vaccination can help prevent fainting and injuries caused by falls. Tell your doctor if you feel dizzy or light-headed, have vision changes or ringing in the ears.
  • Redness or swelling at the injection site
  • Mild Fever, Headache or Tiredness
  • Contact your doctor if you have extensive swelling or bleeding of the arm where the shot was given or a high fever.

What is the Tdap Vaccine?

Tdap is a tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis vaccine given to adolescents and adults as a one-time shot, or after exposure to tetanus under some circumstances. This is in place of one of the Td shots you would get every ten years.

What are the side effects of the Tdap Vaccine?

  • Pain where the shot was given
  • Redness or swelling where the shot was given
  • Mild fever of at least 100.4°F ·
  • Headache and/or Tiredness
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach ache
  • Chills, body aches, sore joints, rash, swollen glands (uncommon)

Getting tetanus, diphtheria or pertussis would be much more likely to lead to severe problems than getting either vaccine.

Pneumococcal (Pneumonia) Immunization

Pneumococcal disease is an infection caused by a type of bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus). There are different types of pneumococcal disease, such as pneumococcal pneumonia, blood infections (bacteremia), brain infections (pneumoccocal meningitis), and middle ear infections (otitis media). Pneumococcal disease is a leading cause of vaccine-preventable illness and death in the United States.

There are currently two types of Pneumococcal Vaccines:

  1. Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV13)
  2. Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine (PPSV23).

One dose of PPSV23 is recommended for:

  • All adults 65 years of age and older
  • Anyone 2 – 64 years of age who has a long- term health problem such as:

    -  heart disease

    -  lung disease

    -  sickle cell disease

    -  diabetes

    -  alcoholism

    -  cirrhosis leaks of cerebrospinal fluid

    -  cochlear implant
  • Anyone 2 – 64 years of age who has a disease or condition that lowers the body’s resistance to infection, such as:

    -  Hodgkin’s disease

    -  lymphoma or leukemia

    -  kidney failure

    -  multiple myeloma

    -  nephrotic syndrome

    -  HIV infection or AIDS

    -  damaged spleen, or no spleen

    -  organ transplant
  • Anyone 2 – 64 years of age who is taking a drug or treatment that lowers the body’s resistance of infection,

    such as: long-term steroids, certain cancer drugs, radiation therapy
  • Any adult 19 – 64 years of age who is a smoker or has asthma


To learn more about the vaccines you may need, use the handy Adult Immunization Scheduler tool provided by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The tool offers personalized vaccine recommendations based on your age, occupation, health status and other factors. Be sure to ask your doctor which vaccines are right for you. Your doctor knows your health history best and can guide you to where and when to have your immunization vaccinations.


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Blog Date: August 12, 2013

Writer: Ryan Allen