Who is at risk?
Adults age 65 years and older are at higher risk of serious flu-related complications. Each year in the U.S., older adults account for more than half of flu-related hospitalizations and about 85 percent of flu-related deaths. There are also other risks that may not be as obvious — flu increases the risk of heart attack by 3-5 times and stroke by 2-3 times in the first 2 weeks of infection for those 65 and older.
Getting vaccinated against flu each and every year is essential since influenza viruses change and evolve. The flu vaccine formulation is reviewed each year to keep up with changing influenza viruses. Also, aging causes a natural decline in the immune system and decreases the immune response so annual vaccine is needed.
In the U.S., there are two vaccines specifically developed for adults age 65 and over. One is a high-dose influenza vaccine that has four times the strength of the standard influenza vaccine. The other is an adjuvanted vaccine that contains an additional ingredient to help boost the immune response. The CDC does not recommend one type of vaccine over another. In fact, getting any flu vaccine is better than not getting vaccinated at all. Flu vaccines may not be perfect, but they offer the best protection currently available.
Flu vaccination should begin as soon as vaccine becomes available in your community. Vaccines are offered in many locations, including doctor’s offices, clinics, health departments, pharmacies, health centers, and even in many workplaces. Note that it takes about two weeks after vaccination for protection to develop. The more individuals who are vaccinated in a community, the better the protection is for all of us during flu season.