Looking AheadINTRODUCTION

The number of people over the age of 65 years continues to grow each decade and is expected to double by the year 2020. The health care needs of the aging population differ from those of other adults, and this is attributable in large part to age-related changes in body composition and physiology. Older people have an increased susceptibility to many infectious diseases because of a decrease in immune system functioning and an increase in the incidence of concomitant diseases. Because of this increased risk of infection, special recommendations for immunization are necessary in this population.

Older adults experience higher rates of vaccine-preventable infections (e.g., influenza, pneumonia, tetanus) than younger adults do; in addition, these infections are associated with greater morbidity and mortality rates in elderly people. For this reason, vaccine campaigns are often targeted to this high-risk population.

Vaccination provides a cost-effective means of protecting older adults from the significant morbidity and mortality associated with influenza, pneumococcal disease, and tetanus. Furthermore, vaccination can decrease the number of hospitalizations caused by vaccine-preventable diseases. canadian cialis

This article reviews the epidemiology of vaccine-preventable diseases in geriatric patients, presents the currently recommended immunization schedules for adults over 65 years of age, discusses factors that limit the success of vaccine programs in the elderly, and includes recommendations for improving vaccination rates in this population.