The Importance Of Seniors Getting The Flu Shot

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.

Black and white picture of a woman in hospital bed with IV
Most cases of hospitalization and fatalities from the flu in 2018-2019 were seniors.

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.

  1. Fluzone High-Dose

    This 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.
  2.  Fluad

    A 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.”

A person sitting down getting a shot in their upper arm.
Studies have shown that vaccinated seniors reduced their risk of flu hospitalization by 50%. 

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.

Flu Season Is Here, Should You Get The Shot?

As the colder months approach, viruses and sickness become prevalent and inevitable. One particular virus, influenza, also known as the flu, arises during these months. It is typically known as flu season. The flu is a respiratory infection that can cause complications, especially to young children, and seniors. This virus adapts to the flu vaccines that are produced every year, which is why a new flu shot is created every year.  Knowing the pros and cons of the vaccine is important so you can determine if it is right for you and your family.

The flu has cold-like symptoms, but for some there are major complications.
The flu has cold-like symptoms, but can have major complications.

The flu shot is said to be effective against the flu illness by 40 to 60 percent of the time during flu season. It will work for some, and for some it will not. If you do receive the shot, and you still catch the flu, then the shot is said to at least reduce the severity of the symptoms.

Who Should Get It

The CDC states that people who should receive these vaccinations annually are those who will benefit from it most. Anyone from the age of 6 months and older are able to get the vaccination. If you are pregnant then the flu vaccine is important to avoid high risks from contracting the flu. Chronic medical conditions can increase your chances of the flu complications. Such chronic conditions include asthma, cancer, diabetes, obesity, kidney or liver disease, and COPD.

Who Should Not Get It

If you are allergic to eggs, then it would be wise not to get the flu shot. Most of the vaccines contain a small amount of egg protein in them. Also if you had a bad reaction to the flu vaccine before, then you should not get it again.

Why Do You Have To Get One Every Year?

Doctors encourage people to get the flu shot every year because the virus evolve quickly. Not only that, but if you receive the shot one year, the antibodies your body produces decline over time. So by the next year, those antibodies will not be able to fight the virus, which is why they advise you to get another shot.

The flu shot can protect you from getting influenza
The flu shot can protect you from getting influenza during flu season.

A lot of people think that once you receive the flu vaccine, that it will give you the flu. This is not true, but you can develop flu-like symptoms because your body’s reaction to it. It takes about 2 weeks for the shot to take effect so in that time frame, you may still catch the flu virus. And although the CDC suggests older people to get the shot, studies have shown different cases. Older people with weaker immune systems will have a lower protective immune response after the vaccine. A weakened immune system will increase the odds of getting the flu.

A record breaking number of kids died in the U.S. from the flu this year, a total of 110. As the season approaches, it is dire to either decide to give the vaccine to your family, or seek other ways to prevent it. Once a person catches the flu, monitor them, and take them to the doctor if symptoms do not improve.