Vaccines relevant to the older person

A few vaccines that the older person should consider are:  Influenza vaccine, Pneumonia vaccine, Covid vaccine and boosters Herpes Zoster vaccine 


Influenza vaccine
Influenza, or commonly referred to as flu, is a respiratory infection caused by the Influenza A or B virus. Influenza is seasonal and the influenza (flu) vaccine is available every year before wintertime. The decision of which strains should be included in the vaccine, is decided every year, based on global surveillance of influenza viruses circulating at the end of the previous season. It is advisable to get your flu vaccine in preparation of winter. Many people are hesitant to get vaccinated, stating that they did get flu in the past despite getting vaccinated. One should remember, that it will not protect you from getting the virus if exposed to it, but the chances that you will develop pneumonia or myocarditis due to the flu virus are markedly reduced. The Vaxigrip®, Influvac® and Vaxigrip Tetra® are readily available in South Africa. 

Pneumonia vaccine
Most Medical Schemes will prompt members older than 65, with co-morbidities to get this vaccine protecting against pneumonia. This vaccine protects against, Pneumococcus pneumoniae, the leading bacteria causing pneumonia in this age group. There are two types of vaccines available Prevenar®(PCV13) and Pneumovax® (PPSV23) to protect against this bacteria. In 2017 the guidelines for the management of community acquired pneumonia suggested the PCV13 vaccine for people older than 50 years and in the population older than 65 who is pneumonia vaccine naïve, both. PCV13 should be administered first with the PPSV23 following after one year. The pneumonia and flu vaccine can be given at the same time. This vaccine only needs to be repeated every 5 years. 

Covid-19 vaccines
As we know, the covid-19 vaccine protects against severe disease and a lot of data is available from other countries, proving that deaths and hospitalisations are prevented by these vaccinations. Many people have their reservations, saying that the development time was just too short for these vaccinations to be safe. One has to remember, the development of a vaccine against the group of corona viruses was well underway even before the pandemic struck us. Vaccination will not prevent you from getting covid-19 but it will greatly reduce the intensity of the disease progression and there is also data that a vaccinated person, sheds less virus, therefore helping to contain the spread of the virus to others. Mask wearing and sanitising your hands, stay important measures and does prevent the spread of the corona virus. At present, two covid vaccine dosages are recommended in the elderly, with a follow-up booster dose.   

Herpes Zoster vaccine
The Varicella Zoster virus causes chickenpox, this infection is more common in children. Effective vaccination against chickenpox, is available but is not given standard as part of the children’s vaccination programme in South Africa. After an acute chickenpox infection, this virus stays dormant (asleep) in one’s nerve bundles until reactivated again. When the virus is reactivated (often by stress, chemotherapy, other conditions compromising the immune system), a herpes zoster (shingles) infection occurs resulting in a blister like rash and most often, severe pain in a certain area of the skin (dermatome). Following a herpes zoster infection, a common complication called Postherpetic Neuralgia (PHN) may present and can take months to resolve. There are currently two vaccines available to prevent a shingles infection, Zostavax® (single dose) and Shingrix® (two dosages), the latter providing longer protection. 
Medwell SA – The Home Health Care Specialists provide Health Services in various Retirement Villages across the country. 
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