August is National Immunization Awareness Month- a time to highlight the importance of vaccines for people of all ages. A vaccine stimulates the immune system to provide active acquired immunity to a certain disease. Vaccines are designed to prevent a disease rather than treating it by helping the immune system prepare to protect the body.

Vaccinations are essential in preventing diseases. They give you the necessary immunity to a disease without you getting it first. How so? A weakened version of the disease or virus is injected into the body. The injection is usually given by a shot into the leg or arm. Your body will then detect the antigens, or the germs, injected and will produce antibodies to fight them off. The antibodies produced will stay in the body for a long period of time, and sometimes even for a lifetime. In a case where you might be exposed to that disease again, the immune system will fight the necessary antibodies in place to off the disease.

Vaccines are important at all ages, from infancy through adulthood. Failure to get vaccines can lead to serious health issues. It can also prevent the spread of a particular disease to others who may have weakened or compromised immune systems.

For adults it is important to take vaccines because:

  • Some vaccines received at a younger age can wear off over time as we get older
  • There are some illnesses that are common in adults
  • They have an increased risk of new and different diseases
  • Availability of new/improved vaccines
  • They slow the spread of a disease

As we grow older, changes in our lifestyles or health conditions may expose/increase your risk of contracting diseases. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following vaccines for adults ages 50 and over:

  • Seasonal Influenza (Flu) Shot: This helps to protect the body against infections caused by influenza viruses and should be received annually.
  • Shingles: This helps to prevent shingles and any complications from the diseases. You should get this vaccine if you had chicken pox as a child, if you want to decrease your chances of getting shingles or have had shingle case before.
  • Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV13): This protects the body from the most common bacteria that is known to cause pneumonia.

Older adults and seniors are at a greater risk of contracting infections and bacteria. This is because as we grow older the immune system weakens and is not able to fight off diseases as well. Let us take care of our health as we get older by making sure to get the recommended vaccines.

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