The COVID pandemic has had a huge, immeasurable impact on all of our lives and has served as a wake-up call for many people in terms of their understanding of how important vaccines are for the state of public health. Ask any geriatrician and they’ll tell you that vaccines are one of the most powerful weapons in their medical arsenal for combating serious illness. For senior citizens, contracting a serious illness can profoundly impact their health and quality of life, leading to ripple effects such as loss of independence, decreased mental and physical capabilities, or a prematurely shortened lifespan.
The Centers for Disease Control reports that each year in the United States, about 42,000 adults and 300 children die from serious illnesses that could have been guarded against by vaccines, making each and every one of those mortalities sadly preventable. The development and proliferation of vaccines has time and time again proven to be one of the most successful public health advancements in the entire history of modern medicine across all time and societies.,
Before the advent of vaccines, many people became severely ill or died from infectious diseases such as smallpox, polio, diphtheria, measles, pertussis, influenza, and more. These diseases often cast a long shadow over the time periods in which they ran rampant, cutting short many lives and causing heartbreak and misery among millions. Since the development and widespread use of vaccines, smallpox has been eradicated worldwide, and diseases like polio, measles, and rubella are considered to be eliminated within the United States. And with annual flu shots available every flu season made for that year’s strain of flu, the disease is still prevalent but doesn’t cause anywhere near that harm that it did back in the time of the flu epidemic at the start of the 20th century.
Vaccines are clearly important to our health as individuals, and also for the reason of being a good citizen. The truth is that not only does a vaccine protect you from possibly suffering the worst effects of a given disease or virus you’re immunized from, it also reduces the spread of infectious diseases within our circle of friends and family, as well as our community at large. Infants, older adults, people who have compromised immune systems like chemotherapy patients, and others are especially vulnerable to infectious diseases, so the more people in the community who are vaccinated, the better protected those people are as well.
As we get older, our immune systems weaken and we can have more difficulty fighting infections. Diseases like the flu, pneumonia, and shingles can all have complications that lead to long-term illness, hospital stays, and, in extreme cases, even death. People with chronic health conditions like diabetes or heart diseases are especially at risk, making vaccines extra important. One of the barriers in ensuring older adults stay on top of their necessary vaccinations is the idea that vaccinations are something for children. But the truth is vaccines remain essential to preserve good health through all stages of life.