By now, everyone’s aware of the significance of COVID-19 vaccines. But all the attention on the pandemic shouldn’t take our focus away from the seasonal flu shot or influenza vaccine for older adults.
Compared to younger adults, senior citizens are more likely to be infected. According to the CDC, 50 to 70 percent of all hospitalizations related to flu occur among individuals 65 and older. With the onset of the flu season, older adults must become extra cautious and get their flu shots.
The importance of flu shots for older adults
Due to COVID-19 precautions including social distancing and lockdowns, the 2020-21 flu season had a minimal effect. It was also mild last year when compared to the pre-pandemic years. But this year could be different.
Experts believe that the 2022-23 flu season could be particularly severe. Social distancing norms have been lifted and people have more or less stopped wearing masks. Travel is also almost back to pre-pandemic levels. All these will increase the spread of the virus.
Australia, where the flu season occurs before it does in the US, recorded three times more cases this year than their average. This is an indication of what might happen here. The most potent way to reduce your risk from the seasonal flu and associated complications is to get the flu shot.
What is influenza or flu?
Does the same virus cause COVID-19 and influenza or flu? No, influenza is a respiratory infection caused by the influenza virus and is highly contagious. Since it’s different from the coronavirus, you would require two kinds of vaccines for protection.
Although COVID-19 and flu are caused by different viruses, there are some commonalities. Both are highly infectious and are passed from individual to individual when someone sneezes, talks, or coughs.
One can also catch the flu virus from any contaminated object or surface. If you touch such a surface or object and then touch your eyes, mouth, or nose, you’re more likely to be infected by the virus. Older adults who have taken the COVID-19 vaccine or are about to be vaccinated can get the flu shot without any safety concerns.
What are the symptoms of the flu?
The common cold and flu have similar symptoms. These include sore throat, cough, chest discomfort, and sneezing. But flu progresses quickly with more severe symptoms. Someone with the flu can also have body aches, fever, headaches, chills, and body aches. They might also feel tired.
Considering the debate around the COVID-19 vaccine, some might wonder if a person can get the flu from the flu shot. The answer is no. Why are we certain? Because the flu shot is created from dead viruses that can’t cause infection.
This isn’t to suggest that there are absolutely no side effects of the flu shot. Some people may experience mild side effects that could almost feel like the flu. But there is nothing to worry about.
Why are older adults at higher risk for flu?
As the figures show, people 65 or older are at a higher risk for flu infection. In the preceding two years, we had a relatively low burden from flu due to the pandemic restrictions and norms including physical distancing, lockdowns, and mask-wearing. But senior citizens should be cautious this year since those 65 or older are more likely to develop severe complications from the flu.
Older adults are at higher risk for flu primarily due to the decline in their immune response, which happens with age. They also don’t respond well to vaccination. But the flu shot is effective in reducing hospitalizations and doctor visits that arise due to influenza.
In addition, an adjuvanted vaccine that has an additive can provide a better immune response. High-dose vaccines are also effective in creating a stronger immune response. Compared to regular flu shots, these can reduce illness.
Get your flu shot now!
Since it takes about a couple of weeks after the flu shot to develop antibodies or offer protection from the virus, you should take your shot as soon as possible. They are available everywhere and all you need to do is search by your ZIP code at vaccines.gov to find flu shots near you.
Check the availability and schedule an appointment today itself. The earlier you get the shot, the more protected you will be when the season begins.
If you’re an older adult, the flu shot is one of the most effective ways to stay protected, healthy, active, and independent.