Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, reducing the spread of respiratory illnesses like flu this fall and winter is more important than ever.
Flu vaccination is especially important for adults 65 years and older, who account for most hospitalizations and deaths from flu and from Covid-19.
Dr. Leslie Kernisan, a doctor specializing in geriatrics, says “So this year, more than ever, it’s important to do what you can to reduce respiratory illness, to protect yourself, and to protect others. We don’t yet have a COVID vaccine, but we do have influenza vaccines.”
To protect your health when getting a flu vaccine, follow the CDC’s Covid-19 recommendations for safety during doctor visits and running essential errands and also continue to take everyday preventive actions.
For more information, see the CDC’s information on getting a flu vaccine during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Getting a flu shot prevents severe illness in senior.
Older adults are one of the highest risk groups for flu, but getting a flu shot will significantly reduce the chance that they’ll get sick.
And if they do end up getting the flu, already having the flu vaccine makes it less severe and less likely to develop into dangerous complications.
5 reasons why flu vaccines are so important for seniors
1. Seniors and caregivers are at higher risk for flu
Cold and flu season is here again. Two of the most at-risk populations are seniors and caregivers. Many seniors are vulnerable to seasonal flu because their immune systems are weaker due to age and often made worse by chronic illness. Getting a flu shot protects older adults against serious illness and complications.
For caregivers, the chronic stress of taking care of your older adult impairs your immune system and makes you more vulnerable to illness.
And spending a lot of time with your older adult means passing germs back and forth. When you get a flu shot, you’ll reduce the risk that you’ll get sick and infect your older adult. It will also save you the misery of being sick while continuing to care for them.
2. Flu is a serious health risk for seniors
For seniors, the flu can quickly develop into a severe illness and could cause death. In fact, the CDC estimates that 70 – 85% of flu-related deaths and 50 – 70% of flu-related hospitalizations happen in people who are age 65 and older.
3. Getting the flu shot reduces flu risk and severity
Even if the flu vaccine isn’t 100% effective, it’s still worthwhile. Research shows that if someone who is vaccinated does get the flu, they will have a milder case. People 65 and older are at high risk of serious flu complications and account for the majority of flu hospitalizations and deaths each year. But seniors who got the flu shot reduced their risk of being hospitalized due to the flu by 40% and reduced the risk of being admitted to an intensive care unit with flu by 82%.
4. The flu vaccine is free under Medicare
If your older adult has Medicare, the flu shot is free as long as the provider accepts Medicare. There is no co-insurance or co-payment needed. And your older adult doesn’t have to meet their deductible to get the vaccine.
Most private insurance companies cover flu shots as a preventive service. If you don’t have insurance, many drugstores and clinics offer flu shots at low cost.
5. Protect against deadly flu complications
A severe form of pneumonia is a common and deadly complication of the flu. In addition to the flu shot, people age 65 or older, smokers, and those with diabetes or lung problems should consider getting a pneumococcal vaccination.
The pneumococcal vaccine isn’t needed every year, so be sure to check with your older adult’s doctor to find out if they need one this year.
When to get a flu shot: September – October
With flu and Covid-19 going around this year, the CDC recommends that everyone should get vaccinated in September or before the end of October – especially adults over age 65.
After getting the shot, it takes about 2 weeks for the protective flu antibodies to develop in the body.
So, the sooner your older adult and you get the shot, the sooner you’ll both have protection against the flu. But experts agree that getting the shot at any time is still much better than not getting it at all.