Influenza is back again–and the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) has sky-high estimates for this year. During the 2018-2019 flu season, up to 647,000 people were hospitalized and 61,200 died from the illness. Most of these fatalities were seniors, which is why it is more important than ever that seniors protect themselves against the flu.
Because of these numbers, we see that seniors and caregivers are the most at-risk populations. If you want to reduce your risk, you must get a flu shot. It won’t guarantee complete protection, but it does significantly help the immune systems of high-risk individuals. Not only that, but even if you catch the flu, the shot can lessen your symptoms and reduce the chance of complications.
The Two Vaccines
There are several shots available, but there are two specific vaccines geared towards people 65 and older. These are Fluzone and Fluad.
Fluzone High-DoseThis 3-component flu vaccine contains four times the antigen of standard-dose influenza vaccines. The antigen is the “active ingredient,” so to speak, that helps your body build protection from the virus. The higher dose is meant to give older adults a better immune response. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine indicated that the high-dose vaccine was 24.2% more effective in preventing flu than the standard dose.
FluadA 2012 Canadian observational study showed that Fluad was 63% more effective than a regular flu shot. It was made available in the U.S. in 2016. This 3-component vaccine contains an ingredient named adjuvant MF59. MF59 is an oil-in-water mixture of squalene (a naturally occurring substance found in humans, plants, and animals). MF59 is inserted into the vaccine in order to promote a better immune response.
In the past, it was warned that people with an egg allergy should avoid the vaccines due to the tiny amounts of egg proteins in them. However, current research suggests that the shot is safe for people with egg allergies.
William Schaffner, M.D., an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine says “It was long thought that it might be due to the eggs, but in the last 10 years, there have been a number of studies by allergists that have shown that the traces of egg protein in flu vaccine are not the cause of these allergic reactions.”
The flu virus has no specific target when it attacks. However, a senior has a far greater risk of serious complications, hospitalization, and even death from the virus. It is better for a senior to be safe and have protection than possibly contracting a fatal bacteria.
All the vaccine does is boost the immune system, which weakens as a person ages. Studies have shown that vaccinated seniors reduced their risk of flu hospitalization by 50%.
The vaccines are free under Medicare, so no coinsurance or copayment is needed. You get protection from the virus, a stronger immune system, and if you do contract it, a reduced chance of complications–all for free! Take the necessary precautions by washing your hands often, avoiding someone who is sick, and getting the vaccine. It might just save your life.