Seniors, teens need immunising
Senior citizens and teenagers need to make sure they have caught up with the vaccinations they need to protect themselves and their families.
Senior citizens are at an increased risk of getting certain diseases like shingles, immunisation education facilitator Michelle Tanner said. ‘‘When a person is infected with the chicken pox virus (they may or may not actually get chickenpox) the virus can remain dormant in a group of nerve cells in the body for many years or decades,’’ she said. ‘‘During a period of stress to the immune system (accident, illness, increasing age etc) the virus may reactivate causing shingles.’’
Shingles is characterised by a rash that stops in the midline of the body.
For some the pain that can last for months after shingles is very debilitating.
The older we get, the greater the risk of shingles, she said.
Between 20 per cent and 30 per cent of people will get shingles, some more than once.
‘‘There is a vaccine against shingles called Zostavax but it is expensive.’’ It is around the $260 mark. You can have a vaccine even if you have had shingles. The vaccine is recommended for people 50 years and older and is available for your GP or some pharmacists.
This age group also needs tetanus/ diphtheria boosters and should take into account the need for ongoing protection if they are travelling a lot or if their occupation, like being a healthcare professional, puts them at risk of coming in contact with certain disease, Tanner said.
Teenagers also need to check they are caught up with all their immunisations especially if they are travelling a lot. This age group should also take advantage of any free immunisations, as many are no longer funded after they turn 18.
Communal living situations like flatting while at university also puts adolescents at risk of diseases they can be immunised against. The diseases teenagers should be immunised against include meningococcal, influenza, chickepox and HPV.
Tanner said that a lot of people are surprised that they still need immunisations once they are out of school, which is why she is enthusiastic about raising awareness.