As we grow older, our immune system’s ability to fight off bacteria and viruses decreases, increasing the risk of contracting infectious diseases that can have severe or even life-threatening implications.
This problem can be addressed through vaccinations against diseases that pose a risk to the health and well-being of seniors, explains Dr Anya Kvitkat, a German geriatrics specialist.
Moreover, Kvitkat recommends that seniors over the age of 60, get vaccinated against the following illnesses:
Getting the flu shot protects seniors from serious complications like pneumonia, heart attacks, and strokes that influenza can cause, according to the Standing Vaccination Commission of Germany’s Robert Koch Institute.
The commission also noted that October and November are the best months to get the flu vaccine.
In addition to the basic COVID-19 vaccine course, the Standing Vaccination Commission advises seniors to get a booster shot after at least 12 months from their last vaccination or infection.
The flu and COVID-19 vaccines can be administered together, just make sure to get each one in a different arm.
Dr Kvitkat says the pneumococcus bacteria increases the risk of pneumonia, sinusitis, otitis media, meningitis, and even sepsis, while in extreme cases a pneumococcal infection can be fatal.
To avoid these severe risks, seniors, especially those with chronic illnesses, should get the pneumococcal vaccine since they are 4-5 times more likely to contract the disease. The vaccination can be renewed after 6 years if the doctor deems it necessary.
Dr Kvitkat explains that the risk of shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is higher for anyone who had chickenpox in childhood, as the virus remains dormant in the body for life, however, it can reactivate, especially from the age of 60, causing shingles.
Symptoms of shingles include a burning painful rash with blisters around the chest and trunk in a belt-like pattern. Potential consequences include nerve pain that can persist for years.
To prevent shingles, seniors should get two vaccinations 2-6 months apart.
Tetanus, also known as lockjaw, is caused by bacteria, usually entering the body through injuries like splinters.
Those affected suffer from muscle spasms, which can be extremely severe in seniors.
To avoid this, seniors who did not receive the vaccine in childhood should get the tetanus vaccine, and it is beneficial to renew the tetanus vaccine every 10 years, says Dr Kvitkat.
Dr Kvitkat explains there are two types of diphtheria: respiratory and cutaneous.
Respiratory diphtheria is associated with symptoms like swollen lymph nodes in the neck and thumb paralysis, while cutaneous diphtheria is identified by fatty deposits on small wounds.
After the basic vaccination course, one should take a diphtheria booster should every 10 years. Vaccination against diphtheria is often combined with that for tetanus.
Dr Kvitkat says tick-borne encephalitis, a serious and contagious disease, is transmitted through the bites of ticks living in wooded/grassy areas.
In the first phase, symptoms resemble the flu. In the second phase, symptoms are paralysis and meningitis.
The Standing Vaccination Commission recommends seniors get the tick-borne encephalitis vaccine if they live in or plan to travel to a high-risk area, noting that full basic immunization requires three shots while booster vaccinations are needed every 1-2 years.