INDIANAPOLIS--(EON: Enhanced Online News)--Flu protection is critical for older adults (65 years old and over) because 54 percent to 70 percent of all flu-related hospitalizations occur in this age group. Aging seniors– and their loved ones – need to do their research and work closely with their doctors this year to ensure they get proper protection against the potential ravages of the flu, as the flu season can begin as early as October and last as late as May.
“Last season’s flu shot is not enough to protect you again this year”
In terms of vaccine options, the flu mist, a popular alternative to the flu shot, has never been recommended for aging seniors, but that’s especially true this season since the mist proved ineffective for all age groups in treating the flu last season, according to Dr. Richard Frank, medical director for Medicare products at Anthem Inc. There are several alternatives and additional vaccines to consider, Frank said.
There is a “high dose vaccine” designed specifically for select people 65 and older. It is four times stronger than the regular flu shot. This year there is also a flu vaccine for older adults with an adjuvant to create a stronger immune response. This vaccine has proven effective in some studies and is considered an acceptable alternative.1 In addition, there is always the tried and true annual flu shot, which is formulated each year based on early flu season projections and is available in either standard trivalent (protection against three viruses) or quadrivalent (protection against four viruses) varieties this year.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend one vaccine over another,” Frank said. “Therefore, we recommend older adults work closely with their doctors to get the vaccine that is right for them. Importantly for those with a Medicare plan, the cost for flu vaccines is covered and they are readily available at a number of locations, enabling aging seniors to readily receive the care they need.
“Last season’s flu shot is not enough to protect you again this year,” Frank added. “Viruses change and immunity wanes over a year so annual vaccination is needed to ensure the best possible protection against influenza.”
For older adults who have not received a flu vaccine, the CDC also recommends two pneumococcal vaccinations to protect against pneumonia, meningitis and bloodstream infections. The vaccines are administered a year apart. Both are covered by Medicare as long as they’ve never been administered before. Seniors can get either (but not both) when they get their flu vaccine. Unlike a flu shot, these vaccinations do not require annual updates.
Finally, it’s important for aging seniors to take day-to-day precautions to protect themselves from viruses, including avoiding close contact with infected people, keeping hands away from the face, washing hands with soap and water, getting plenty of sleep, being physically active, managing stress, drinking plenty of liquids and eating nutritious foods. Anyone with flu symptoms should contact their health care provider immediately to determine if antiviral treatment would assist in their recovery. Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines that fight against the flu in your body. Early treatment could cut the duration of a hospital stay for older adults and reduce their risk of needing extended care after discharge.2 Most Medicare plans cover antiviral drugs on their formularies.
The flu vaccine is not recommended for those allergic to eggs or any of the ingredients in the vaccine or for people who have had Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Older adults should also avoid the intradermal flu vaccine, which is given with a smaller needle and not in the muscle for those fearful of shots. For more information about the dangers of flu and the benefits of vaccinations, talk to a health care provider or visit www.cdc.gov/flu.
About Anthem, Inc.
Anthem is working to transform health care with trusted and caring solutions. Our health plan companies deliver quality products and services that give their members access to the care they need. With over 73 million people served by its affiliated companies, including nearly 40 million within its family of health plans, Anthem is one of the nation’s leading health benefits companies. For more information about Anthem’s family of companies, please visit www.antheminc.com/companies.