While many people think of immunization as a “kids issue,” aging parents, spouses, and other seniors need to be aware that proper immunization is a lifelong concern. That’s one of the key messages behind National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM), which is observed during the month of August.
It works for kids…
Thanks to the concentrated efforts of the medical community, the government, and other interested parties, childhood immunization has given millions of people protection from diseases which were once common – and often life-threatening. The immunization program in the U.S. improves the health of children of all ages.
… And adults too
Immunization is not simply for children. Adults, including aging parents, need to be aware of the impact that lifelong immunization has on continued health.
As NIAM recently reminded the public, “every year thousands of adults in the U.S. needlessly suffer, are hospitalized, and even die from diseases that could be prevented by vaccines.” While the annual influenza vaccinations are well-known among aging parents, there are many other vaccines – for issues such as tetanus, hepatitis, shingles, whooping cough, and pneumonia – that need to be kept up to date as well.
According to statistics, not all adults are doing a good job of remaining well-vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has data that show that only 17% of adults are up to date on their tetanus vaccinations; only 42% of adults took advantage of the influenza vaccine; only 24% of people age 60 and over have been vaccinated against shingles.
Exactly which vaccines are needed may vary from one adult to another. Aging parents should have regular conversations with their doctors about which vaccinations they have had and which ones they need to have. Doing so during August is an excellent way to celebrate National Immunization Awareness Month.
Be sure to discuss why these vaccines are needed. It’s always good for patients to know the reasons behind any treatments so that they can be better informed about their health care.