Vaccines Bolster Immune Systems That Weaken with Age

National Adult Immunization Week highlights the need for vaccination at any age

During August's National Immunization Awareness Month, the American Lung Association reminds adults that there are vaccine recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for potentially serious lung diseases. Even healthy older adults are at increased risk for pneumococcal pneumonia and influenza, because the body's immune system naturally weakens with age.

As a preventive healthcare measure, vaccines work by teaching the body's immune system to recognize and defend against harmful viruses or bacteria before getting an infection, and reduce the chance of getting certain infectious diseases. Older adults and those with weakened immune systems or certain chronic health conditions –like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – are especially vulnerable to infectious disease. In fact, for adults 65 and older living with COPD, the risk for contracting pneumococcal pneumonia is 7.7 times higher than their healthy counterparts, and those with asthma are at 5.9 times greater risk.

An estimated 40,000 to 50,000 adults in the United States die from vaccine-preventable infectious diseases or their complications each year. More than just a bad cold, influenza and pneumococcal pneumonia are potentially serious infections that are among those vaccine-preventable infectious diseases.

  • Pneumococcal Pneumonia, the most common type of bacterial pneumonia, is often spread through coughing. The symptoms of pneumococcal pneumonia can come quickly and may include high fever, excessive sweating and shaking chills, coughing, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath and chest pain. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee recommends that all adults 65 years or older receive pneumococcal vaccination.
  • Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a highly contagious virus that is usually spread through coughing or sneezing. Symptoms can impact the entire body and may include fever, headache, muscle aches, a dry cough, sore throat and nasal congestion. Health officials recommend that everyone six months of age and older receive an influenza vaccination every year.

"It's always better to help prevent a disease than to treat it after it occurs," said Dr. Norman Edelman, Senior Scientific Advisor to the American Lung Association. "Vaccines are vital to protecting lung health, especially when it comes to influenza and pneumococcal pneumonia, which can have a devastating impact on the lives of those whose lungs are already compromised by asthma, COPD and other chronic respiratory conditions."

The American Lung Association, in partnership with Pfizer, is urging adults to talk with their healthcare provider about pneumococcal and influenza vaccination with more information available at and, or call the American Lung Association's Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA.

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