National Flu Vaccination Week Opens with Senior
Citizens as Prime Targets
60 percent of flu-related hospitalizations in the
U.S. occur in senior age group; learn about extra-strong vaccine for
Dec. 9, 2013 - National Influenza Vaccination Week
opened Sunday and seniors are prime targets of the campaign by the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Senior citizens age 65 and
older last year recorded the highest flu-related hospitalization rates
since the CDC began tracking this information during the 2005-2006 flu
An estimated 60 percent of flu-related
hospitalizations in the United States occur in this senior citizen age
group. One of the latest weapon to help seniors fight the flu is a
high-dose flu shot made and approved specifically for people 65 years of
age and older. The CDC, however, says it has not determined if the
stronger immune response results in greater protection for older adults.
The CDC and its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices have not
expressed a preference for either vaccine.
Unfortunately, the burden of flu illness in people
65 and older was accompanied by reports that the flu vaccine did not
work as well as expected to protect people in this age group against one
particular flu virus last season. If that news left you asking yourself
whether getting a flu vaccine this season is still worthwhile for people
65 and older, the answer is absolutely and unquestionably, Yes!
There are plenty of reasons for people 65 and older
to get a flu vaccination this year, and vaccination remains the first,
best and most important step in protecting against flu illness and its
For most people, getting the flu means feeling achy
and feverish for a week or so, but for people 65 years and older, the
flu can be much more serious. People in this age group are at high risk
for severe flu illness and complications.
While the benefits of flu vaccination can vary
and this is particularly true in people 65 and older studies show that
vaccination can provide a range of benefits, including reducing flu
illness, antibiotic use, doctors visits, lost work, and even helping to
prevent hospitalizations and deaths.
A recent study by CDC and Vanderbilt University
experts found that flu vaccination reduced the risk of flu-related
hospitalization by nearly 77 percent in study participants 50 years of
age and older during the 2011-2012 flu season.
Other studies have found that flu vaccination
reduces the risk of death in older adults. For people with certain
underlying heart conditions, several studies indicate that flu
vaccination can reduce the risk of a heart attack. Overall, there is
significant evidence to support the benefits of vaccination in people 65
Seniors need high-dose flu shot
If you are in this age group, there are two flu
vaccine options available to choose from this season: the standard flu
shot and a high-dose flu shot made and approved specifically for people
65 years of age and older.
The high-dose vaccine contains more antigen (the
part of the vaccine that helps your body build up protection against flu
viruses) than the regular flu shot, and this extra antigen is intended
to produce a stronger immune response in seniors. CDC does not have a
preference for which vaccine seniors should get this season.
Either the regular flu shot or the high-dose
vaccine are perfectly acceptable options for people 65 and older this
season, said Dr. Alicia Fry with CDCs Influenza Division. The
important thing is to get vaccinated because its still the best
protection currently available against the flu.
Flu vaccine is offered in many locations. Use the
vaccine finder at http://vaccine.healthmap.org/ to find a flu
vaccination clinic near you. Medicare covers both flu and pneumonia
vaccines with no co-pay or deductible. As part of the Affordable
What You Should Know and Do this Flu Season If You Are 65 Years and
It has been recognized for many years that people
65 years and older are at greater risk of serious complications from the
flu compared with young, healthy adults. It's estimated that 90 percent
of seasonal flu-related deaths and more than 60 percent of seasonal
flu-related hospitalizations in the United States each year occur in
people 65 years and older. This is because human immune defenses become
weaker with age. So influenza can be a very serious disease for people
65 and older.
Actions To Take This Flu
Get Your Flu Shot
The best way to prevent the flu is with a
flu vaccine. Vaccination is
especially important for people 65 years and older because they are
at increased risk for complications from flu.
A flu vaccine protects against flu viruses that
research indicates will be most common during the season. (See
Vaccine Virus Selection for this
seasons exact vaccine composition.) The vaccine has been updated for
this season and immunity wanes over a year, so you should get vaccinated
this year even if you were vaccinated last season. Immunity sets in
about two weeks after vaccination.
People 65 years and older have two flu shots
available to choose from - a regular dose flu vaccine or
a newer flu vaccine designed for people 65 and
older with a higher dose. The high dose vaccine is associated
with a stronger immune response to vaccination. However, whether the
stronger immune response results in greater protection against influenza
illness in older adults is not yet known. The CDC and its Advisory
Committee on Immunization Practices have not expressed a preference for
Practice good health habits
including covering coughs, washing hands often, and avoiding people who
Seek medical advice quickly if you develop flu
symptoms to see whether you might need medical evaluation or treatment
antiviral drugs. It's very important
that antiviral drugs be used early to treat flu in people who are very
sick with flu (for example, people who are in the hospital), and people
who are sick with flu and have a greater chance of getting serious flu
complications, like people 65 and older.