Aging Well

Aging Well

Over 65? Get your flu shot!

Posted November 2, 2020 9:00 a.m. EST

Flu shots are particularly important this year

While many people are understandably focused on the rising number of cases of coronavirus, it is important to remember we are entering flu season, which also results in significant numbers of hospitalizations and deaths among people over 65.

How does the flu compare to COVID?
According to the CDC, in 2019/2020, there were 38 million cases of the flu in the US, 405,000 hospitalizations, and 22,000 deaths. The CDC estimates that 70 to 85 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths occured among people 65 and older. In terms of COVID, as of November 1, 2020, the CDC reported 9.3 million cases in the United States and 231,000 deaths. Eight out of ten COVID-19-related deaths, or 185,000, were to adults aged 65 years and older.

When should I get vaccinated?
It is good to get vaccinated by the end of October. In other words, if you haven’t been vaccinated yet, now is the time. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating, vaccination should continue, even into January or later.

How long does it take to develop full immunity after you have received the shot?
About two weeks.

How long does immunity last?
Protection is thought to persist for at least 6 months. Protection declines over time because of waning antibody levels and because of changes in circulating influenza viruses from year to year.

Has the flu season officially begun in the US?
As of November 1, activity remains low. The CDC releases weekly surveillance reports here.

Why is it especially important this year?
There is obvious concern that for those requiring hospitalization, there may be a shortage of beds and medical personal available to care for those with the flu due to an anticipated increase in COVID cases requiring hospitalization.

Why do seniors need a flu vaccine specially developed for them?
In addition to being at the highest risk for flu-related deaths, adults over 65 have poorer immune responses to flu vaccines than younger people, potentially resulting in lower effectiveness. Lower immune responses may lead to lower vaccine effectiveness (i.e., a measure of how well the flu vaccine protects against flu illness). Consequently, substantial research and development have produced flu vaccines targeted to this age group. Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent and adjuvanted flu vaccines (FLUAD and FLUAD Quadrivalent) are another option.

Does a flu vaccine increase your risk of getting COVID-19?
There is no evidence that getting a flu vaccine increases your risk of getting sick from a coronavirus, like the one that causes COVID-19.

How much does it cost?
The Affordable Care Act (2010) mandates that all recommended immunizations be provided at no cost.

Where can I get vaccinated?
In addition to your doctors’ office, pharmacies, and Urgent Care, the health department offers vaccines. Make sure you ask whether they offer those recommended for people over 65.

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