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The Flu Shot is Crucial, But Do I Need it This Year?

woman receiving flu shot by doctor in home

Is the Flu Shot Important for Those Over 60?

By Jennifer Footit-Tank RN BSN, quality care coordinator at Network Health
Originally published on 8/30/2021 at 1:30 p.m.

With summer coming to an end, the flu season is just getting started. The flu season can start as early as mid-August with a December to February peak and ends in May.

What exactly is the flu that marks this season? The flu, or influenza, is a respiratory disease that causes a person to have symptoms such as fever, headache, fatigue, body aches, cough, sore throat and a stuffy nose. Influenza is spread from person to person by droplets in the air when an infected person sneezes, coughs or talks.

Symptoms can last for a week and most people can recover at home. For others, the flu can lead to hospitalization or become life-threatening.

What makes me more susceptible to complications from the flu?

As you get older, your immune system changes, making you more susceptible to developing complications from the flu. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates people over age 65 account for 50-70 percent of flu-related hospitalizations and 70-85 percent of flu-related deaths.

The flu is widespread and deadly. Last year, there was an estimated 19 million cases of the flu, 180,000 hospitalizations, and 10,000 deaths in the US according to the CDC.

So, as you can see, flu prevention is incredibly important, particularly if you’re over age 60.

How can I protect myself against the flu?

The best way to protect yourself is to receive an annual flu shot from your doctor’s office or pharmacy. The CDC recommends the flu vaccine be administered every year to anyone 6 months and older. The flu virus mutates or changes every year.

Because of these mutations, your immune system needs the vaccine to develop the antibodies for the upcoming flu season. With time, the effectiveness of last year’s vaccine wears off.

There are two options of flu vaccine for people 65 and older.

High-dose flu vaccine

This immunization contains four times the amount of immunizing agent than the regular flu shot. The higher dose allows your body to have a more robust immune response giving you better protection.

Adjuvanted flu vaccine

This immunization is made with an additive MF59 which causes your immune system to have a stronger response to the vaccine thus improving your protection from the flu.

What are the side effects of these flu shots?

Side effects from these vaccines are the same as a regular flu shot. Some people may experience pain or swelling at the injection site, headache, muscle aches or fatigue which last a few days.

In addition to an annual flu shot, you can help protect yourself by washing your hands or using hand sanitizer, cover your cough, wear a mask when not at home, avoid touching your eyes, mouth or nose and stay away from others who are sick.

The flu shot – necessary for people of all ages to stay healthy year-round

Getting the flu shot every fall is a great step towards taking care of yourself and those around you. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic receiving your flu shot is even more important. Discuss any questions you have regarding the flu vaccine with your primary care provider.

If you have any questions about your health coverage and how preventative care can be made easy with your Network Health plan, contact us today.

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