Enhanced Immunization Services for Seniors

By Ken Falter, Ph.D

Beginning this fall, John Knox Village of Central Florida is offering a broader set of immunization services to its residents. In addition to the fall immunization clinic, immunizations to prevent the three most important diseases for seniors will be available from the Oak Park Clinic “on demand.” An Immunization Record Card has been designed specifically for the residents of John Knox Village. This card provides guidance on each of these diseases and its immunization(s). Space is also provided to record other immunizations a resident may receive.

These new services are a result of a joint effort of the Residents’ Council’s Healthcare Committee and John Knox Village management.

The three diseases are Influenza, Pneumococcal Pneumonia, and Shingles. Each of these diseases has its own immunization guideline as follows:

  • Influenza – This disease changes from year to year, and each year’s immunization is developed to combat the latest form of the disease. Therefore, you should get an immunization each fall. Medicare Part B covers this immunization.
  • Pneumococcal Pneumonia – There are many subtypes of this disease and two vaccines have been developed to combat many of these subtypes. You may have received the first vaccine when you turned 65. If so, there is now a second vaccine that you should have for more complete protection. If not, then you should receive both vaccines, one year apart. Medicare Part B covers these immunizations.
  • Shingles – This disease may occur in people over age 50 who have had the chicken pox. It can occur more than once. A previous vaccine was offered several years ago, but it had limited effectiveness in seniors. The new vaccine, Shingrix, has 90% effectiveness in seniors and is offered as an initial immunization followed by a booster two to six months later. Medicare Part D, Tricare and many private Health Care Plans cover these immunizations. There may be copays for this.

An upcoming immunization clinic will offer both the Influenza High Dose vaccine for seniors and each of the “Pneumonia” vaccines.

These vaccines as well as the shingles vaccine will then be available by appointment at the Oak Park Clinic (456-1600, ext. 2710). When you receive the initial Shingrix shot, we will reserve a booster shot for you.

But why vaccinate at all? There are both personal benefits and community benefits.

Personal Benefits

  • The greatest personal benefit is YOUR HEALTH!
  • Stay well by avoiding the disease.
  • Avoid or reduce doctor’s visits and hospitalizations which can occur because of the disease or from secondary diseases which may develop due to your weakened immune system.
  • Perhaps, the greatest benefit is possibly saving your life.

Community Benefits

  • John Knox Village is a community unto itself and we should care for one another and about one another.
  • An epidemic of a disease could have dire consequences in a close-knit community where people are constantly coming together in the dining rooms, in the activity rooms, in the buses, and at the Barker Center.
  • Most importantly, some members of our community are unable to be vaccinated due to underlying immune deficiency, illness, chemotherapy, etc. and we have a “community responsibility” to do what we can to help these residents stay as healthy as possible.

How do we avoid an epidemic? Do we have to immunize everybody? No, not everybody. But we do need to immunize at least 95% of us to protect all of us. Then, the likelihood of those not immunized getting the disease is low since so many others have been vaccinated. But if we all decide to be part of the 5% who do not get immunized, this will not work.

This concept is called “Herd Immunity.” If coverage drops below 95% or so, then sporadic cases can develop and ongoing disease transmission becomes possible. Our community members who cannot be immunized for medical reasons can ONLY be protected by Herd Immunity.

Bottom line: It is now easier and more convenient to meet all your immunization needs right here at John Knox.