How effective are vaccinations for the elderly?

July 16, 2012 at 6:50 pm 1 comment

In the past 40 years, vaccinations have been globally adopted as the primary measure to illness and disease in the elderly population. Nevertheless, there has been a lack of evidence supporting the appropriate use and effectiveness of vaccinations in the elderly.

The influenza vaccine, one of the most common vaccines that has been highly recommended for people over the age of 65, is losing its reputation as an effective way for the elderly to fight the flu. These new findings are very discouraging to some, especially when considering that people over the age of 70 account for three-fourths of all flu deaths.

A New York Time’s article cites previous studies that show “not any actual protection against the flu virus but a fundamental difference between the kinds of people who get vaccines and those who do not…simply because they went to the doctor more often.”

Lone Simonsen, PhD, and collegues at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases conducted a review of consecutive 33 flu seasons from 1968 to 2001. Their findings were very interesting and supported the idea of the lack of effectiveness vaccines have on the elderly.  The most important conclusion these researchers reached from their studies was that “the number of flu-related deaths along elderly Americans increased steadily during the 33-year-period, despite the fact that their acceptance of flu vaccinations also steadily increased.”

Another alarming study conducted by Dr. Wilbur H. Chen and colleagues at the Center for Vaccine Development at the University of Maryland School of Medicine found that “elderly participants needed four times the amount of antigens given in a standard dose of the flu vaccine to have the same immune response as healthy adults under 40 years old.”

Many vaccinations contain ingredients such as mercury and aluminum, which are regarded as highly toxic. There are possible harmful side effects to every vaccination, especially when containing these types of ingredients, and unfortunately the elderly and chronically ill are more vulnerable to experience these effects.

So what do all of these recent findings mean for the elderly and chronically ill? First, many tend to believe that getting the vaccination on an annual basis is still not a bad idea. Although the effectiveness has been severely questioned, it will not hurt loved aging ones who have been receiving vaccinations for decades to continue to do so.

AmeriCare Georgia’s Director of Nursing Karen Rawls, named 2012 Education Nurse of the Year by March of Dimes, has strong opinions and recommendations concerning immunizations for the elderly:

  • First and foremost, understand the effectiveness of frequently washing your hands and get in the habit of doing so.
  • Give elderly more nutrients, not needles. Older people have often have inadequate diets, and unfortunately with aging and illness comes the increase necessity for vital nutrients.
  • Increase intake of Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Selenium, and Zinc.
  • Build immune systems by ensuring plenty of sleep and a diet full of fruits and vegetables.


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Bon Voyage: Travel tips for seniors Getting ready to age in place

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