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Experts share why older adults need flu vaccine: 8 things to know

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Experts warn why you shouldn't skip the flu shot, especially if you're 65 or older

Experts share flu season is likely to be severe, making it important to get your flu shot, especially for those age 65 and above. EmaxHealth asked Dr. Adam Welch, Associate Professor at the Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy at East Tennessee State University and Gina Venditti MPAS, PA-C, Board of Trustees, Physician Assistant (PA) Foundation why it is so important for older adults to get an annual flu vaccine.


I asked Gina Vendetti why it’s so important for older adults to get the flu shot.

Vendetti said: “As we age, of course, our immune system decreases in strength and its ability to fight infections.”Older adults have less ability to fight infections, Vendetti shared. Infections also tend to linger.

Eight things to know about what could happen to older adults who get the flu:

  1. Vendetti said older adults are likely to experience potentially life threatening complications of the flu; some can occur even months later.
  2. Pneumonia is one of the most concerning flu complications for older adults and is the 8th leading cause of death in the U.S.
  3. Other flu complications include “inflammation in the muscles, in the heart, in the brain - you can even have organ failure, sepsis and even death,” Vendetti said.
  4. A “staggering statistic” Vendetti tolld EmaxHealth is that 90 percent of deaths from flu are in the over age 65 population in this country.
  5. Given the toll flu can take on health, especially for older adults, the best thing to do is go get your flu shot. Higher dose flu vaccines have been developed that give older adults extra protection.
  6. There are dozen different types of flu vaccines available. Dr. Welch told us some are specially formulated by adults over age 65 that contain extra ingredients to help boost the immune system; something most people don’t realize, Welch said. Vaccines are stronger and protection has improved over the years.
  7. Other complications of the flu can happen months after the flu attacks that include stroke, heart disease and cardiovascular problems.
  8. Even if the vaccine misses its mark for a specific strain, symptoms are like to be milder if you’ve had your flu shot.

Which flu vaccine is right for me?

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The best option according to Dr. Welch is to talk to your healthcare provider - your doctor, your physician’s assistant or your pharmacist can tell you which flu vaccine is right for you.

Manufacturers of flu vaccine don’t always get the strain right each year. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get the vaccine.

“Getting a flu shot is still “the single most effective way” to prevent the flu” Welch says. .

Other tips for prevention

Know that the holidays mean more exposure to flu virus with travel and and exposure to others who may harbor the flu virus. Wash your hands frequently during flu season and keep your hands away from your face.