By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Flu shots important for older adults
Health advice
Placeholder Image
As we age, we become more susceptible to serious diseases caused by common infections, such as the flu or pneumonia. This susceptibility also means we are more prone to complications.
Each year, more than 65,000 American adults die from vaccine-preventable diseases or their complications. Pneumonia and flu (grouped together) are the fifth leading cause of death among older adults. That is one reason Medicare Part B pays for influenza and pneumococcal shots.
Some adults believe vaccines received when they were children offer protection for their entire life. And most of the time this is true but there are exceptions. Some adults were never vaccinated as children and others only received a few vaccinations because not all of the vaccines were available at that time. And while immunity will last for many years, some can begin to fade over time.
Influenza is expected to kill thousands of people in the United States again this year. The vaccine is recommended for people 50 years old or older, residents of long-term care facilities, people with weakened immune systems, healthcare workers or those with certain high-risk medical conditions. But it is available for everyone who wants to reduce their chance of catching the flu and its complications.
The current expectation is we will have plenty of vaccine but residents at high risk remain a high priority.
Parents are encouraged to get their children immunized this year. Complications and death are also risks among children and children are often at greater risk for contracting the disease because of their close contact with large numbers of other children in school.
Flu causes fever, cough, sore throat, headache, chills and muscle aches. Most people who get the flu recover fully within one to two weeks. But some peopled develop serious, life-threatening complications, such as pneumonia.
In an average season, influenza kills an estimated 36,000 Americans and puts 200,000 in the hospital. In the U.S., flu season usually occurs from around October through April. Healthcare providers recommend residents get the vaccine in October or November because the season usually peaks between January and March. No matter when you get it — please remember — it takes about two weeks for your body to build up immunity after receiving the vaccine. So should you get the flu in that two-week timeframe, understand it wasn’t from the shot. You were exposed to the flu and your body simply couldn’t fight off the infection because it hadn’t had enough time to build up immunity.
Most people need one flu shot a year. Children under 9 years of age who are receiving their flu shot for the first time should receive two shots - one month apart. Regardless of your age, it is necessary to get a flu shot every year. Influenza viruses are known to mutate (change) often and this necessitates that the vaccine be updated yearly to cover these changes.   
Pneumococcal disease is another example of a very serious disease that can be prevented through adult immunizations. Pneumonia can cause many complications and result in death. In fact, this disease kills more people in the United States each year than all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined. Treatment of pneumococcal infections has become more difficult and prevention of the disease through vaccination even more important. About one out of every 20 people who get pneumococcal pneumonia dies from it.  
It is recommended that the following people get immunized against pneumococcal pneumonia:
• All adults 65 years of age or older
• Anyone over 2 years of age who has a long-term health problem
• Anyone over 2 years of age who has a disease or condition that lowers the body’s resistance to infection.
• Anyone over 2 years of age who is taking any drug or treatment that lowers the body’s resistance to infection.
• Alaskan natives and certain Native-American populations.
The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine protects against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria and usually requires only one dose for immunity. Second booster doses are required under certain circumstances and for some people who have specific health conditions. Boosters are generally given every 6 years in those cases.
Local health departments have started administering flu and pneumonia vaccines and residents should watch for special area drive-through clinics where everything is delivered as you sit in your car.
Liberty County will host a drive-through immunization clinic from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at the James A. Brown Park.
For more information about adult vaccines or to schedule your appointment, contact your health department or healthcare provider.
Sign up for our e-newsletters