In late 18th century England, a physician named Edward Jenner made a revolutionary discovery. At the time, smallpox killed more than 30% of the people it infected, and, as a result, caused much fear throughout Britain. According to local knowledge, though, milkmaids who’d previously contracted cowpox were immune from the more virulent form of the disease. This caused Jenner to wonder if there could be a connection. In 1796, Jenner used material from a patient’s cowpox blister to inoculate an eight-year old boy named James Phipps. As a result of the procedure, James gained immunity from smallpox. Jenner published his findings and is now known as “the father of immunology.”
A True Lifesaver
It’s difficult to know exactly how many lives Jenner’s discovery saved over the last 200 years. In the U.S. alone, the CDC estimates that “vaccinations will prevent more than 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths among children born in the last 20 years.” Between the years 2000 and 2016, the CDC also estimates that the measles vaccine has saved the lives of 20.4 million people globally. Even this limited picture shows why many people believe Edward Jenner’s work has saved more lives than any other human.
Important Immunizations for Seniors
More recently, our cultural conversations have centered around childhood immunizations. While this is certainly important, we can’t overlook the role vaccines play in protecting the health of older adults. With that in mind, here are four vaccines every person over the age of sixty-five should consider receiving:
As we age, our immune systems weaken. We also begin suffering from chronic conditions like diabetes, heart and lung disease, and liver problems. Because of this, seniors who come down with the flu are much more likely to develop serious complications and much more likely to die. To avoid the disease, doctors recommend seniors receive flu immunizations annually before the season ramps up in November.
Typically contracted during childhood, chickenpox is a relatively minor condition which causes itchy skin blisters and runs its course over a couple of weeks. But as our immune systems weaken later in life, the chickenpox virus can reawaken, causing a painful skin rash known as shingles. Once the virus begins working in the body again, it can also result in a number of other health issues like fever, exhaustion, and loss of appetite. There are two different types of shingles immunizations currently available, so seniors should consult their doctor to find out which version is right for them.
Pneumococcal disease causes infections in the bloodstream and key organs, resulting in conditions like pneumonia, meningitis, and bacteremia. This collection of diseases kills thousands of American seniors every year. It can also cause other serious complications such as deafness, brain damage, and limb loss. In most cases, doctors give the pneumococcal vaccine in two doses about a year apart.
Hepatitis B Vaccine
Hepatitis B is a contagious disease that infects the liver. In its acute form, the disease lasts a few weeks and mimics the effects of the flu. Chronic hepatitis B often causes no symptoms but can result in liver damage or death. Seniors are more prone to contracting hepatitis B, especially if they suffer from chronic conditions like diabetes or end-stage renal disease. Most American are vaccinated against hepatitis B as infants. If you think you may not have been vaccinated or think your vaccinations may need to be updated, contact your physician today.
A Healthier World
We live in a safer and healthier world today thanks to the pioneering work of Edward Jenner. But each of us still must take an active role in protecting our own personal health. If you’re a senior, talk to your doctor about adult immunizations and make sure yours are up-to-date. If you’re providing care for a senior, you should also consider receiving these vaccinations yourself. Otherwise you risk inadvertently infecting them with one of these life-threatening diseases. If you don’t have a primary care provider, online resources like vaccinefinder.org can point you towards a health clinic near you.
About Generations Home Care
Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier and independent life.
We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasize a consistent, client-centered plan of care.
Our Specialty Services Include:
- Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
- Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
- Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
- Veteran’s connection to care program.
- Live-in services and couples care.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.