Adults Only: Talking vaccinations at the Senior Center

REPORTER FILE PHOTO A patient receiving a flu shot.

According to various statistics that I’ve read recently, if I were around in 1950, I’d already be dead.
What I mean is that the life expectancy of a male in 1950 was about 65 years. The life expectancy today of an American male is about 78 years.

The figures for women are a few more years. They tend to outlive men by about four or five years. These figures are approximate and gathered from various sources on the Internet. They are not scientific. Rather a layman’s analysis.

I thought about longevity as I listened to Island physician Dr. Nathanael Desire speak at the Senior Center last Wednesday. He talked about all the good that can come from receiving the right inoculations — like avoiding illness and living longer.

Diseases like flu, tetanus, shingles and pneumonia can be devastating for senior citizens.

Dr. Desire began with the flu. He reported that both the young and the old are at high risk for complications from the flu. He said that anyone can get the very contagious influenza (flu) virus that usually spreads between October and May. Another reason to get the flu shot is so you do not spread the disease. It is a once- a-year shot.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), flu can also lead to pneumonia and blood infections, and cause diarrhea and seizures in children. If an individual has medical conditions of the heart and lungs, flu can make them worse.

The CDC says that each year “thousands of people in this country die from flu and many more are hospitalized.”

I also learned that flu shots do not contain any live flu virus so they cannot cause the flu. So check with your doctor if you should get the shot. Those with severe allergies and a history of certain diseases may not be candidates.

The doctor then spoke about the DTaP vaccine. I believe that this used to be called the DPT shot for diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus. This vaccine is particularly important for healthcare professionals and anyone having close contact with a baby younger than 12 months. That’s why it’s important for grandparents who are involved in the care of their infant grandchildren. And again, always check with your doctor if there are any reasons that you should not get the vaccine.

The next inoculation discussed was the shingles vaccine. We’ve all seen many ads for it on TV and have learned that if we had chicken pox, we have the virus for shingles in our bodies and it can flare up later in life.

The CDC says that shingles is a painful skin rash, often with blisters. You cannot catch it from another person. However a person who has never had chicken pox could get chicken pox from someone with shingles.

Shingles rashes are painful and usually last two to four weeks. The main symptom is pain and sometimes fever, chills, headache and upset stomach. Rarely, infections can lead to pneumonia, blindness, hearing problems, encephalitis or death.

The vaccine is recommended for those over 50. It consists of two doses, two to six months apart.

And again, check with your doctor if you are a good candidate for the shot.

Dr. Desire stressed the questions we should always ask about vaccines: Why should I get it? Who should get it? When and how often should I get it?