• By Ian Roth

Mayo Clinic Minute: Why vaccines are especially important for older people

April 22, 2019

The older you get, the harder time your body has fighting off infections and diseases. That's why Dr. Gregory Poland, who heads up the Mayo Clinic Vaccine Research Group, says it becomes more crucial to get vaccinated as you age.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

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Aging is inevitable, and parts of the process can be unpleasant.

"As you get older, your immune system gets weaker," Dr. Poland says. "That's why we see more severe infections in older people. It's why they don't do as well with [other] diseases."

Dr. Poland says that's why his team at Mayo Clinic looks for ways to tailor vaccines to better protect older people.

"There are three influenza vaccines, one shingles vaccine and one hepatitis B vaccine that have been designed around those issues and that work better than the standard vaccines in older people," he says.

Dr. Poland says it's important to remember that these vaccines aren't perfect and won't always prevent you from getting an illness, but they protect you from complications from illnesses like the flu.

"So you might have had sniffles or fever," he says. "You were home for a day or two from work, but you didn't get hospitalized. You didn't get pneumonia. You're not on a ventilator. You're not in ICU. And you didn't die."

He compares it to wearing a seat belt in a car. It won't necessarily prevent you from getting in an accident, but it will probably save your life if you do.

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