Every year the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly urges the population to get vaccinated against influenza in early fall.
It is essential that seniors 65 years old and older receive the appropriate seasonal flu shot. This will ensure you or a loved one has increased protection from severe illness and complications that can require hospitalization or cause death during the flu season.
Annually our country averages 140,000 to 810,000 hospitalizations and 12,000 to 61,000 deaths due to the flu (Influenza virus). It’s estimated that this age group makes between 50% and 70% of those hospitalized and between 70% and 85% of deaths.
Here we will discuss the various types of senior flu shots available, side effects, effectiveness, and protection.
What makes the senior flu shot different?
The senior flu shot was developed due to the higher risk of developing serious complications in adults 65 years and older. This increased risk is the result of the changes that weaken the immune system as we age.
Studies have shown that flu vaccination reduces the severity of illness, especially considering the most common chronic conditions in seniors can be further complicated with flu infection.
There can also develop secondary infections such as bronchitis, pneumonia as well as ear and sinus infections.
The flu vaccine stimulates your body to produce antibodies that can protect you against the virus. The components that cause the production of these antibodies are called antigens.
The vaccines created for seniors are designed to strengthen the immune response, resulting in higher effectiveness than the standard vaccine.
Types of flu vaccines for seniors
Always consult with your doctor about which type of senior flu shoot is ideal for you or a loved one. Make sure to share all medications and supplements you use and any recent vaccines.
All flu vaccines are now quadrivalent, meaning they protect against four common circulating flu strains in the upcoming season. Two different influenza type A strains and two B influenza strains.
- Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent is a single dose intramuscular injection that contains four times the amount of antigen than the standard-dose Fluzone vaccine, making it a stronger version.
- Fluad Adjuvant Quadrivalent pairs the regular vaccine with an adjuvant, which is an immune stimulant made of aluminum salts, this causes the immune system to have a higher response to the vaccine.
How effective are flu vaccines in older adults?
According to the CDC having the senior flu is the single best way to protect yourself or a loved one from the flu, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Flu vaccines are updated each season to keep up with changing viruses. Keep in mind immunity wanes over a year so annual immunization is needed to ensure the best possible protection. It takes about two weeks after vaccination to develop antibodies that protect against the flu infection.
The high-dose vaccine for seniors works by prompting the immune system to produce antibodies that help the body fight the virus strains present in the vaccine.
One study found that there were 25% fewer cases of influenza in adults over 65, who had the high-dose vaccine versus those who had the regular. Flu vaccination has decreased the need for medical attention by more than 60% among the senior population.
Additional safety recommendations:
- Frequent hand washing or use of hand sanitizer when not possible.
- Try not to touch the eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Refrain from being in close proximity with those who are currently sick.
- Sanitize high contact surfaces.
- Contact your doctor if you have flu symptoms.
- Establish a healthy routine that includes a nutritious diet, moderate exercise, stress management, appropriate rest, and social engagement.
What are the side effects of the Senior Flu shot?
Serious adverse effects from having the senior flu shot are very rare. However, you can expect to have mild side effects due to the body’s immune response that resolves within a few days. The most common are:
- Arm soreness, and sometimes redness
- Muscle pain
- Low fever
- Feeling unwell
You should talk to a health care provider before getting the senior flu shot if you have any of the following conditions. They will advise whether the vaccine is right for you and select the right one for your situation.
- If you ever had Guillain-Barré Syndrome
- If you have had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of the flu vaccine
- If you are allergic to eggs or any other vaccine ingredient
- An auto-immune disorder
- If you are feeling unwell, make sure to consult as well.
Get emergency medical help if you have any signs of an allergic reaction such as hives, swelling of your face, mouth, or throat, and difficulty breathing.
You may report vaccine side effects as well as to the US Department of Health and Human Services, at 1-800-822-7967.
Can you get the flu and the covid-19 vaccine or booster together?
The CDC states that it is safe to get a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu vaccine during the same visit. Although, the best is to follow the recommended schedule for both vaccines.
Get the COVID-19 vaccine and booster as soon as it becomes available to you and ideally get the flu shot by the end of October. However, don’t hesitate to take it later because the flu usually peaks in February and can continue into May.
If going out twice is an inconvenience and you are planning on receiving both vaccines at the same time you should know that:
- You will usually get one vaccine in each arm.
- Research has shown that the body can identify each vaccine and stimulate the appropriate immune reaction.
- The COVID-19 and the Senior Flu vaccine protect against completely different viruses. One doesn’t replace the other.
- The FDA has shortened the eligibility for a booster from six to five months after having your second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.
- You are eligible for a booster at least two months after completing the primary dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
- The FDA and the CDC now support a mix-and-match” approach so people can choose a different vaccine brand for their booster. However, they now recommend an mRNA (Pfizer or Moderna) vaccine rather than the J&J.
- A booster dose reaches effectiveness between one and two weeks later.
You should first consult your loved one’s doctor to figure out what could work best for them.
Locations to get the Senior Flu Shot
You can easily schedule an appointment for the senior flu shot even if you don’t have a regular health care provider, offered at many pharmacies, and local health departments.
Precautions to follow when visiting your vaccination site:
- If present, wait until any current symptoms such as fever have resolved.
- Wear a well-fitted appropriate mask.
- Confirm the location is practicing pandemic safety guidelines.
- Sanitize your hands frequently during the appointment and wash your hands as soon as possible.
The CDC offers broad information on what measures to take during the flu season and the COVID-19 pandemic to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
Here at Loving Assisted Living we are always providing you with articles that we hope that you will enjoy, we are always trying to provide you with the best senior care information.
If you are interested in finding an assisted living home for your loved one, we would be happy to help you through the whole process.
We will take the guesswork out of trying to find the right senior assisted living home for you, we have a large network of referral partners, so we can help you no matter where you are living.