Should men and women over the age of 65 get a flu shot? The simple answer is “yes.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 71 and 85 percent of flu-related deaths occur in those over the age of 65. And more than one-half of all flu-related hospitalizations occur in the same age group. Getting the flu vaccine can save your life.** Reasons why flu shots are important in aging adults**
As you age, your immune system becomes weaker. That means that when you are exposed to the flu, there is a higher chance you will develop symptoms — and those symptoms can be severe.
People over the age of 65 are at high risk for developing complications from the flu, especially if they have other medical conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes. More than 85 percent of people over the age of 65 have at least one chronic medical condition. The most common complication from the flu is bacterial pneumonia, which can be fatal in aging adults.** Influenza combined with pneumonia is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in people over the age of 65.**
According to the National Council on Aging, around 58,000 hospitalizations were averted in the 2014-2015 flu season because of vaccines. Besides protecting yourself, getting the flu shot helps to protect those around you. If you get the flu, you put anyone else who hasn’t had a flu vaccine at risk.
Do you need another flu shot if you had one last year?
Yes, each year the influenza vaccine is updated to help protect you against the most prevalent types of flu strains. Flu viruses evolve rapidly and last year’s vaccine might not protect you from the flu strains that are common this year.
Also, higher-dose flu shots are often available for older adults. Your doctor can help you decide which is best for you. If you are not up to date with your pneumococcal vaccines, it is a good idea to have that as well. Pneumococcal vaccines do not need to be given annually.
Who should not get a flu shot?
Almost everyone can get a flu shot. However, you should talk to your doctor if you have had a life-threatening reaction to a previous flu vaccine, experienced oculo-respiratory syndrome after receiving a flu shot, or developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome within eight weeks of getting an influenza vaccine. If you have experienced any of these conditions, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get a flu shot this year, but it does mean that you should talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of the vaccine and decide together what would be best for you.
Fluzone High-Dose Seasonal Influenza Vaccine: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Get Flu Facts: National Council on Aging
What You Should Know and Do this Flu Season if You Are 65 Years and Older: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of Idiot's Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot's Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love and Essential Guide to Asperger's Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.