The Flu Vaccine for Seniors

FluThe Flu Vaccine for Seniors

It is not unusual to see a commercial or advertisement encouraging people of all ages to get the flu vaccine. They are readily available in doctor’s offices, assisted living facilities, urgent care offices and even local pharmacies. While we may think we know about the flu vaccine, there may be a couple facts that surprise you. In addition, do you know the implications geriatric patients? What should you be asking your geriatric care physician or nurse when flu season comes around?

First, I will touch on the basics of the flu vaccine, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The flu vaccine is intended to keep you from getting the flu, which in turn protects the people around you from the spread of the virus. People that are considered to have a higher likelihood of getting the flu are encouraged to get the vaccine, such as seniors, children and people receiving care or therapy for chronic conditions. If you get the vaccine and develop the flu, the vaccine is intended to lessen the effects of the virus. The flu is not a small thing, it is extremely dangerous and sometimes deadly1.

The flu vaccine is especially important to geriatric healthcare professionals and patients. While the flu vaccine is considered one of the best ways to prevent the virus, the effectiveness of the treatment is highly dependent on the unique factors of the patient. Particularly, “Older people with weaker immune systems often have a lower protective immune response after flu vaccination compared to younger, healthier people. This can result in lower vaccine effectiveness in these people. 1” In other words, the CDC notes that geriatrics patients and those receiving care for chronic illnesses may not possess the same defenses as healthy adults and kids after receiving the vaccine1.

Even so, “One study showed that flu vaccination was associated with … a 77% reduction among adults 50 years of age and older during the 2011-2012 flu season. 1” That is a very convincing number when discussing the viability of the flu vaccine in geriatrics.

The CDC is very direct in urging geriatric care professionals to encourage seniors to get the vaccine despite the status of one’s immune system. For example, they cite that any protection is better than nothing at all, the sometimes fatal effects of the flu virus in geriatric patients that can be avoided and the fact that hospitalization for even a simple virus “can mark the beginning of a significant decline in overall health and mobility. 1

If you or an elderly loved one is concerned about whether or not you should get a flu vaccine, contact your primary care doctor or nurse or home health professional to seek advice.

1 (2014). Seasonal Influenza (Flu). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved May 15, 2014 from