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Health & Wellness

Why Some Seniors Skip Needed Vaccinations


The New York Times recently reported on an ongoing health problem: People once vigilant about vaccinating their children aren’t nearly as careful about protecting themselves as they age – even though some diseases are particularly dangerous for older people. 

Dr. Gilberto Salazar is an emergency medicine physician with Parkland Health System.

Interview Highlights:

Why vaccines are important for seniors: “The older we get, the more susceptible we are to certain infections that during our younger years we’re probably not going to have any trouble with. But the older we get, especially if we start having other medical problems, then we’re really susceptible to these infections. So vaccines are a great way to keep us from getting some of these terrible infections.”

Our immune system weakens as we get older: “Some of the vaccines we get in our youth, they no longer provide some immunity. It really makes us susceptible to these infections.”

Vaccines seniors really need: “The vaccine for shingles, a terrible painful condition from the virus that can manifest in people who’ve had chicken pox. The pneumonia vaccine. Pneumonia, especially in the elderly, can get them in quite a bit of trouble. Folks think of influenza as a really bad cough. But influenza accounted for almost a quarter-million hospitalizations last year. It’s especially hard on elderly people with other health problems like diabetes, hypertension, history of stroke, respiratory symptoms.”

Also Tdap: “Most of us receive that tetanus vaccine. Tdap really helps tackle diphtheria, which is another type of bacteria that can get us in trouble. Tdap should also cover pertussis. Pertussis is whooping cough.”

Why some seniors bypass needed vaccines: “One is the myth that these vaccines make people more sick than they otherwise would. But the overall benefit is a lot higher than some of the side effects.  The other concerns I hear all time is I can’t afford it, or my physician doesn’t have them, or I have to do a big co-pay for some of these vaccines, or a walk-in pharmacy is asking me for all sorts of paperwork. So there are some areas that need to be explored, but mostly it’s a matter of doing a little bit of paperwork ahead of time so you can be healthy in the long run.”

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