Doctors say immunizations are vital for senior citizens

By Jena Johnson - bio | email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - It's what doctors are calling one of the most significant public health achievements of the 20th century. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes August as national immunization awareness month.

While immunizations are generally thought of for school aged-children, healthcare workers said its just as vital that senior citizens get their yearly round of immunizations.

Dr. Lance Sloan makes his rounds at the Castle Pines Nursing Home in Lufkin. "Do you remember when you got your shots?" he asked a patient.

Dr. Sloan said patients living in nursing homes are at high risk without their annual immunizations. He said their living environment makes them prone to illness because their immune system is generally weaker.

According to the CDC, up to 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu each year.

"The majority of the people that as far as end up in the hospital or end up dying are the elderly," said Dr. Sloan. An age group Sloan said makes a significant dent in the 200,000 people hospitalized and 35,000 flu deaths every year.

"It can really be a life saving thing and we'd certainly hate to see somebody end up in the hospital or dying for something that could have been easily prevented," said Dr. Sloan.

Amid the recession, Dr. Sloan said countless people have had to cut-back on medical expenses. He said the cost for immunizations shouldn't deter senior citizens. "For the elderly thought that have medicare it's a covered service for both the flu shot and the pneumonia shot and some other immunizations."

Nursing home patients generally receive their immunization shots in late September, but Dr. Sloan said it's always safe to send out reminders. "Well, I'll get on that, I always do," said one of his patients.

Dr. Sloan said it's also extremely important that children and college students get their yearly immunizations.

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