Advice on recommended vaccines for seniors and tips for care.
Less than one in every four adults aged 65 to 79 will get vaccinated against influenza and other diseases, according to the National Health Population Survey 2018/19. This is a worrying statistic considering that vaccinations are a key aspect of a well-managed healthcare plan for seniors due to the increased likelihood of chronic conditions.
With age, the body loses its ability to fend off foreign substances, making seniors more susceptible to vaccine-preventable diseases. Coupled with how weakened immune systems compromise healing, it is important that seniors view vaccinations as a preventive measure – helping to improve their quality of life by potentially reducing the number of clinic and hospital visits.
Vaccine uptake is impeded by a myriad of factors, including a general lack of awareness about diseases and confusion over vaccination schedules, especially when booster dosages are required.
Dr Cheryl Latha Glenn, medical director of SATA CommHealth, shares her advice on recommended vaccines for seniors and tips for care:
Recommended types of vaccinations for seniors
Overall, the Ministry of Health (MOH) recommends seven vaccines against 11 diseases, which are:
(ii) Pneumococcal (PCV13/PPSV23);
(iii) Human Papillomavirus (HPV2/HPV4);
(iv) Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis (Tdap);
(v) Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR);
(vi) Hepatitis B; and
Especially for adults above the age of 65, it is highly recommended to get the influenza and pneumococcal disease (PD) vaccinations. Invasive pneumococcal disease can cause serious infection in the lungs, blood, middle ear and coverings of the brain. SATA CommHealth Medical Centres offer a pneumococcal 13 & 23 vaccination package, where the former (pneumococcal 12 or PCV13) is administered first, followed by the latter also known as the PPSV23.
It is worth knowing that most vaccines will cause some side effects as the body works to adapt to the virus or disease. Known side effects include some pain at the site of the injection, soreness, low-grade fever and chills, which typically lasts for a few days. In cases of a serious adverse reaction, a substantial number are the result of allergy reactions to components in the vaccines, so be sure to check with your health provider beforehand.
The National Adult Immunisation Scheme (NAIS), launched in November 2017, recommends vaccines based on age, specific medical conditions and whether one has shown evidence of infection or immunity. Since November 1, 2020, Singaporean adults are eligible for subsidies for approved vaccinations on the Subsidised Vaccine List.
The remaining fees payable, out-of-pocket can be covered using cash or Medisave. SATA CommHealth is one of the participating healthcare organisations under the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS), including Pioneer and Merdeka cardholders.
Tips & things to know
Armed with the necessary knowledge of how and why vaccination works, here are some additional tips on things you can do for a safer vaccination experience:
- Have a support system – The mild symptoms discussed earlier often occur for a few days so consider putting in place a support system. For example, inform your family beforehand so arrangements such as daily check-ins and food delivery are be taken care of.
- Rely on trusted and expert sources – The Internet is rife with false information on vaccinations. If you are unsure, it is perfectly fine to go to medical professionals, such as homecare providers, to learn more about vaccines. SATA CommHealth has introduced teleconsultation services to improve the accessibility to its doctors and medical staff. It is also working closely with Government agencies to roll out the COVID-19 vaccinations for seniors, especially those who are not as mobile.
- Medical history – In general, anyone who has a history of anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction, or has allergies to specific vaccine components should not receive a vaccine. The influenza vaccine, for instance, should not be taken by elderly patients with immunocompromising conditions such as cancer, and chronic pulmonary conditions such as chronic bronchitis and chronic obstructive lung disease.
Age is no barrier to vaccinations. They remain important no matter what age or life stage you are in so it is crucial to take a proactive approach and ensure that your quality of life is not tarnished by preventable diseases when you are living your golden years.
** This article was contributed by SATA CommHealth.