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Enjoying Your Golden Years

Do you look forward to enjoying your golden years? Do you want to keep doing the things you love? How about spending more time with your friends and families? If your answers are yes, remember to vaccinate against these four major diseases and lead the healthy life you deserve.


Hit your stride in your 60s and 70s!
Stay healthy by vaccinating yourself against common infections.

As we grow older, we are blessed with the wisdom and experience to realise that the most important things in life are happiness and health.

Our days of chasing material wealth and career advancement are behind us. Now, we devote our energy to staying healthy and fit instead.

To enjoy life after retirement, we have to take good care of ourselves by eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep and going for regular check-ups.

But there’s no denying that once we hit our 60s, our immune system weakens [1] . This increases the risk of infections that could cause serious illnesses and prolonged complications at this age.

Vaccination is the best defense against some of these infections. There are four vaccines that are important for those above 60 years old. They are influenza, pneumococcal, zoster and pertussis vaccines.

Keep the flu away
The first is the influenza vaccine, which provides protection against seasonal flu. Influenza or the flu is not the same as the common cold, even though both share similar symptoms like fever, cough, sore throat and runny nose[2] . The flu can lead to more severe illness and complications like pneumonia, and heart, brain or muscle damage[3] .

Those above 65 years are at high risk of serious flu complications[4], with 88% of influenza-associated deaths occurring among the elderly[5].

The influenza virus constantly mutates, so you should get a flu vaccination every year, preferably during your annual health check-up.

Prevent pneumococcal disease
One jab is all it takes to prevent pneumococcal disease, which is caused by the bacteria, Streptococcus pneumoniae. It is a major cause of death among the elderly. This bacterial infection can lead to pneumonia, septicemia (infection of the blood) and meningitis (inflammation of the coverings of the brain and spinal cord)[6] .

Not only are the elderly more likely to suffer from pneumococcal disease, 30-40% of the cases even result in death[7] .

Older adults are also particularly susceptible if they have diabetes, heart disease or other chronic lung and liver disease[8].

Stop shingles
Shingles is a painful viral infection that affects one in five people over 50 years old. If you have had chickenpox (or varicella) before, you are at risk of developing shingles (or zoster), as both conditions are caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV), which stays inactive in the body after you recover from chickenpox[9].

One of the complications of shingles is post-herpetic neuralgia, which causes burning pain that lasts for months or even years after the rash and blisters have disappeared[10]. Even though shingles is rarely life threatening, the prolonged pain and costly treatment can be extremely depressing.

The worst part is that you can get shingles more than once[11]. So the best way to protect yourself is to get the zoster vaccination.

Protect your grandchildren from whooping cough (pertussis)
While you are helping to take care of your grandchildren, spare a thought to the diseases that you could be passing on to them. One of these is pertussis or whooping cough, a highly contagious bacterial respiratory disease.

Pertussis can have grave consequences for babies and children who are too young to receive the vaccination[12] , as it can cause pneumonia, difficulty in breathing or even death. The pertussis vaccine is available in the form of the Tdap combination vaccine that can prevent adults from harbouring infections that cause tetanus, pertussis and diphtheria.

Don’t be a burden to others
At this age, you don’t want to be looking at the world from a hospital bed.

But that could happen if you fall prey to these vaccine-preventable diseases. They often start out as simple infections but can lead to long-term complications, prolonged hospital stays and costly medical treatment.

Instead of being a burden to your family and community, stay healthy by getting yourself vaccinated.

An article courtesy of ‘Vaxin Check For Adults’ programme by Malaysian Society of Infectious Diseases & Chemotherapy, in association with Immunise4Life.


[1] Haase, H., & Rink, L. (2009). Functional significance of zinc-related signaling pathways in immune cells. Annual review of nutrition, 29, 133-152.

[2] CDC (2016). Flu Symptoms & Complications. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/complications.htm#complications

[3] CDC (2016). Flu Symptoms & Complications. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/complications.htm#complications

[4]CDC (2016). Flu Symptoms & Complications. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/complications.htm#complications

[5]CDC (2010). Estimates of Deaths Associated with Seasonal Influenza, United States, 1976-2007. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5933a1.htm

[6] CDC (2016). Pneumococcal Disease. Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Retrieved from Diseases: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/pneumo.html

[7]CDC (1997). Prevention of Pneumococcal Disease: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00047135.htm

[8]Malaysian Society of Infectious Diseases and Chemotherapy (2016). Guidelines for Adult Immunisation, 2nd edition. Pg 110

[9]CDC (2016). Shingles (Herpes Zoster). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/shingles/about/overview.html

[10]NHS Choice (2016). Shingles – Complications. Retrieved from http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Shingles/Pages/Complications.aspx

[11]CDC (2016). Shingles (Herpes Zoster). Retrieved from

[12]CDC (2015). Pertussis (Whooping Cough): Complications. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/about/complications.html