Flu Shot for Seniors
Autumn brings changing leaves and a fresh crop of “flu shot” signs outside clinics and pharmacies as the flu season gets underway. Flu vaccines are recommended for everyone over 6 months old, and senior health experts say those over 65 have the most to gain from flu vaccines. If you’re putting off your yearly flu shot or wondering if it’s worth the bother, here’s some information to consider.
There’s a flu shot that works better for seniors
The passage of time hits older adults’ immune systems with a double penalty. We’re more likely to pick up diseases like the flu as we get older, and our bodies are less able to fight those infections. To counter this, Fluzone High-Dose vaccine packs 4 times as much flu antigen as a regular shot to provoke a stronger immune response in older adults. Studies have shown that the high dose shot does raise the incidence of side effects such as muscle soreness and headache, but it has also cut flu infection rates by 24% in seniors, compared to regular flu shots. (If Fluzone High-Dose isn’t available where you live, you should still get a standard flu vaccine.)
There’s a flu-shot option for seniors with egg allergies
People with egg allergies can’t get standard flu shots, which are made with eggs. For these people, Flublok vaccine offers egg-free flu protection. It has a shorter shelf life and less patient demand than other flu vaccines, so you should call your provider before your visit to make sure it’s available.
Your flu shot probably won’t cost you a dime
Medicare participants have coverage for one seasonal flu shot each year, and most private insurers are required by the Affordable Care Act to cover preventive care such as flu shots. If you do end up having to pay for your shot, ask about discounts and sliding-scale payments.
A flu shot may keep you out of the hospital
Seniors as a group are at high risk for severe, potentially deadly, flu complications like pneumonia. That’s especially true for older adults who also have diabetes, asthma, HIV/AIDS, and cancer, as well as seniors with heart disease and those who have had a heart attack or a stroke. The CDC has found that infected seniors account for more than half of flu-related hospital stays and suffer up to 90% of each year’s flu-related deaths.
Flu shots don’t require a trip to the doctor
Your physician almost certainly has flu vaccine on hand this fall, but there may be a more convenient place to get your shot. Many pharmacies, senior centers, walk-in clinics and urgent-care centers are offering flu shots now. If you’re an assisted living or long-term care resident, you may be able to get your flu shot without leaving home.
The flu shot is part of your defense against winter illnesses
The CDC also recommends that seniors get a pneumococcal vaccine to protect against pneumonia and septic infection. They also remind us to maintain good health habits, such as frequent hand-washing and avoiding people who are obviously sick. If you do develop flu symptoms, don’t wait to see how you feel in a few days. Contact your doctor right away for treatments to reduce the severity of the flu so you can feel better faster, increase your odds of staying out of the hospital, and spend the fall and winter doing what you want to do.