Guest post by Bob Blancato, longtime advocate for older Americans.
With summer winding down and National Immunization Awareness Month coming to an end, communicating the importance of immunizations for Americans of all ages is top of mind – but particularly for older adults. A growing concern is the declining immunization rates in seniors.
According to the 2013 National Health Interview Survey, only one out of four adults over the age of 60 had received the shingles vaccination. Additionally, only one out of six adults over the age of 19 had received a Tdap vaccine in the last eight years, a vaccine that protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough). Even more alarming, only 60 percent of adults over the age of 65 received a flu vaccination in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
These low vaccination rates are especially startling when you consider hospitalization and death rates due to these preventable diseases. According to the National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs, between 80 percent and 90 percent of seasonal flu related deaths have occurred in people over the age of 65. The CDC also reports that adults over the age of 65 account for between 50 percent and 60 percent of seasonal flu related hospitalizations. These hospitalizations and deaths are preventable thanks to vaccines.
As we age, our immune systems weaken, and we are more susceptible to infection. By staying up-to-date on vaccinations, seniors can significantly improve their chances of preventing these life threatening infections.
National Immunization Awareness Month is an opportunity to bring awareness to declining immunization rates in seniors and the importance of getting vaccinated as a part of a healthy lifestyle. But we must remember to stress the importance of immunization year-round – not just in August. Talk to your friends about this growing threat to the senior community and get vaccinated today!
Don’t know what vaccinations you need? Take this CDC quiz or talk with your doctor. Once you know, use the tool below to find a vaccine provider near you!