Why Seniors Need Flu And Pneumonia Vaccines

“Because elderly people tend to have more chronic disease and more suppressed immune systems, they tend to get post-influenza pneumonia, a bacterial infection that can kill,” says Debra Spicehandler, MD, co-chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Northern Westchester Hospital. Pneumonia causes about 54,000 deaths annually, according to the CDC. To mitigate risk, seniors should get the flu shot every year. “Even though this year there were more cases of the flu among those vaccinated,” says Dr. Spicehandler, “it was a milder illness than it would have been otherwise.” It’s also crucial to ask for Pneumovax or Prevnar, the vaccine against pneumococcal pneumonia, one of the most serious forms of infection. Symptoms include high fever, chills, cough, chest pain, stiff neck, and sensitivity to light. Dr. Spicehandler recommends getting the vaccine once every five years before age 65, and once more thereafter.

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