Vaccines are used to boost immunity and eradicate diseases, but how safe are they for ageing individuals? Learn more about the benefits and risks of vaccinating the elderly here.
With an average life expectancy of 83 years, the senior population in Singapore continues to grow. As a result, they are prone to increased health risks as they have weaker immune systems and are more likely to catch (and spread) infections.
Vaccination is essential to ensuring good health and reducing the spread of disease within communities. But are they safe for elderly individuals?
In this guide, we discuss the benefits and potential risks of vaccination for the senior demographic. We explain exactly how vaccines work and why they help your ageing loved ones prevent health complications.
How Vaccines Work
Vaccines contain a weakened form of pathogens or bacteria from a specific illness. By exposing the body to a weaker version of an illness, vaccines prompt the immune system to identify and attack these pathogens. As a result, the body learns how to respond, create the appropriate antibodies, and remove specific harmful substances – in short, immunity is developed.
Upon vaccination, individuals may experience symptoms such as body aches or a mild fever within two days. However, this is a typical immune response and isn’t cause for alarm.
Generally, vaccines don’t cause individuals to become sick. They simply mimic the sickness to elicit an immune response, which prepares the body to recognize and fight future infections.
Types of Vaccines
Due to advances in biotechnology, our knowledge about vaccines continues to expand. Here are a few of the most common types used in treating patients:
- Live attenuated vaccine - This type of vaccine more closely resembles actual infections since it uses weakened, live pathogens from an illness. It results in long-lasting immunity but isn’t typically recommended for individuals with weaker immune systems.
- Inactive vaccine - This vaccine uses dead pathogens that still trigger immune responses. While inactive vaccines are safer for immunocompromised individuals, immunity is short-term. This means that individuals will likely need routine follow-up shots.
- Recombinant vaccine - This type of vaccine uses a specific infection’s antigen to induce an immune response. It doesn’t use the actual virus or bacteria, and this helps immunocompromised patients develop immunity safely.
Common Misconceptions about Vaccines
Misinformation regarding vaccines is widespread, which poses a harmful threat to the general population’s health. Some common misconceptions about vaccines typically come from:
- The belief that immunisation is ineffective
- Exaggerated side effects
- Faulty generalisations
- Disproven medical sources
Anti-vaccination groups have argued for natural immunity, improved hygiene, and balanced nutrition for protection. However, scientific evidence has proven that relying on these practices alone create higher health risks and poorer outcomes. Additionally, without vaccination, eradicated diseases are likely to resurface.
The Safety of Vaccines
Generally, vaccines are safe to use. Vaccinations may be accompanied by a few mild symptoms like irritation, fatigue, and swelling. Fewer than 1% of vaccinated individuals experience more serious complications due to an allergic reaction, but these can be treated promptly.
While there are risks involved in any medical decision, the benefits of vaccination outweigh its risks. The effectiveness of vaccines is backed by concrete scientific evidence from years of research. However, it is always advisable to gather as much valid information as possible to make a well-informed decision for your loved ones.
Highly Recommended Vaccines for the Elderly
The body’s immune system naturally weakens with age. Plus, elderly patients tend to be at higher risk for contracting illnesses because they may have existing medical conditions that make them vulnerable.
To ensure the safety of your elderly loved ones, consider these highly recommended vaccines for their age group.
The flu vaccine protects individuals against the seasonal flu. While an elderly loved one may still catch the flu after vaccination, they’re likely to only experience mild symptoms and recover quickly. Moreover, vaccinated individuals who are 65 and older are reported to have fewer cases of hospitalization and clinical visits.
Pneumococcal vaccine prevents individuals from developing diseases like meningitis, ear infections, and pneumonia. Typically, medical experts recommend the PPSV23 pneumococcal vaccine. However, elderly individuals and high-risk patients may also be given the PCV13 version of the vaccine.
This vaccine prevents the development of shingles, a painful rash that appears on a localized area of the body or face. This infection is caused by the reactivation of the chickenpox virus and can recur without proper vaccination. Statistically, ageing individuals are more likely to contract shingles, which makes it essential for them to be vaccinated against it.
TDAP (Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis) Vaccine
Medical professionals highly recommend the TDAP vaccine for seniors who come in regular contact with infants. This is because pertussis and diphtheria are highly contagious infections and can be detrimental to the health of young individuals. Getting this vaccine not only protects your elderly loved ones but also ensures the safety of other family members.
How Often Elderly Individuals Should Receive Vaccination
While existing health conditions may change one’s vaccination routine, doctors generally follow an immunization schedule based on the individual’s age group. Here’s the regular schedule for the list of highly recommended vaccines for patients 65 and older:
- Flu vaccine (inactive or recombinant) - 1 dose every year
- Pneumococcal vaccine (PCV13 & PPSV23) - 1 dose only
- Shingles vaccine (Shingrix) - 1 dose followed by another dose after 2-6 months
- TDAP vaccine - 1 dose and a booster every 10 years
Note: These dosage recommendations are based on the information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This should not be used in place of professional consultation from your doctor or medical advisor.
The Benefits of Vaccination
Vaccination provides the necessary protection that your elderly loved ones need. Studies suggest that seniors who receive a flu vaccination have better immunity, higher likelihood of recovery, lower cases of medical visits, and reduced hospital expenses.
Not only does vaccination play a major role in safeguarding an ageing individual’s health, but it also protects those around them from getting sick. Some individuals have genetic deficiencies or vaccine allergies which force them to rely on herd immunity. Simply put, the more people that are vaccinated, the less likely infections will spread – even if there are people who can’t get vaccinated.
Ninkatec’s Vaccination Services
Immunization becomes increasingly important as our loved ones age. The flu is one of the most common infections that pose medical complications for ageing individuals because they tend to have weaker immune systems. By scheduling annual flu vaccination appointments with us, your elderly loved ones can receive optimal care and have their medical needs met.
Ninkatec is one of Singapore’s leading medical providers of home care services for ageing individuals. To minimize outside exposure and ensure the safety of our clients, we offer professional home flu vaccination services along with our care plans. With our team of medical experts, your elderly loved ones can receive their routine flu vaccines at the comfort and convenience of their homes.
Get Vaccinated with Ninkatec
Vaccination is one of the best ways to maintain good personal and public health – especially for the elderly, who are more susceptible to experiencing complications after contracting illnesses like the flu. Ninkatec assists your ageing loved ones in receiving proper and regular vaccination. To learn more about our vaccination services, schedule an appointment with us today.