Note from NHCOA: The week of December 4-11 is National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW), a week of national observance that highlights the importance of getting vaccinated against influenza, and to encourage more people to get vaccinated during the holiday season and beyond. This post via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains why it is important for older adults to get a flu shot.
If you’re 65 or older, the flu prevention message for you this year is simple: Get a flu shot as soon as you can.
Everyone 6 months and older is recommended to get a flu vaccine.
But, as a person 65 or older, health officials urge you in particular to get a flu shot right away. Anyone can get the flu, but some people are at greater risk for serious flu-related complications, like pneumonia, that can lead to hospitalization and even death. This includes adults 65 years and older.
This is because the body’s ability to fight illness drops as you age. In fact, each year about 9 out of 10 flu-related deaths and more than 6 out of 10 flu-related hospital stays in the United States occur in people 65 years and older.1
“CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first and best way to protect against the flu,” says Dr. Anne Schuchat, Assistant Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service and CDC’s Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “The annual flu vaccine recommendation is the same during years, like this one, when the vaccine is made to protect against the same flu strains as the previous season’s vaccine.”
Flu vaccine supplies are plentiful, but you should get a flu shot as soon as possible, as the timing of influenza outbreaks is unpredictable, and it takes about two weeks after vaccination for your body to develop protection against the flu.
Like last year, you have a couple of choices when it comes to your flu shot. You can either get a regular shot, or a higher-dose option that is only available for people 65 years and older.2 The higher-dose flu shot is designed to elicit a stronger immune response but may cause more mild side effects than the regular shot. These mild side effects may include pain where the shot was given, and rarely fever. CDC has not expressed a preference for either type of flu shot at this time. Talk to your doctor about which option is best for you.
You can get a flu shot from your doctor, pharmacist, or local health clinic, as well as at flu clinics in local retail outlets.
Recent studies have shown that the vaccine may be less beneficial for people 65 and older than for those who are younger. This is for the same reason that people 65 and older are at greater risk of serious flu illness: their body’s immune system is weaker and less able to mount a protective response. However a flu vaccine offers the best defense available to protect against flu. And CDC recommends it for everyone 6 months and older, especially people 65 years and older.
For more information about the dangers of flu and the benefits of the flu vaccine, talk to your doctor or nurse, visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu or call CDC at 1-800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636).
1 Thompson WW, Shay DK, Weintraub E, et al. Mortality associated with influenza and respiratory syncytial virus in the United States. JAMA 2003;289:179-86.
2 CDC. Questions and answers: Fluzone High-Dose seasonal influenza vaccine. July 6, 2011. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/qa_fluzone.htm.