Flu Season | Vaccines For The Elderly
Some older adults may have to wait until later in the fall to get a flu shot because of a delay in manufacturing a vaccine designed for seniors. The Medical Daily reports various reasons for the delay of the Fluzone High-Dose vaccine and the standard flu vaccines for children and other adults. Health authorities in Port Arthur, Texas believe the delay in vaccine shipment is likely due to more older adults becoming aware of the importance of getting a flu shot.
Health officials elsewhere point to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) delay in recommending which strains of the flu virus to put in the vaccines for the 2019-2020 flu season in the Northern Hemisphere. Vaccines are updated to fight the most common flu viruses expected each year. While a flu shot does not prevent a person from getting the flu, medical experts say it reduces the seriousness of the effects should a person get the flu.
Why Is There A Different Vaccine for Seniors?
Influenza (flu) impacts children and adults of all ages. However, seniors generally suffer more complications because the flu can worsen chronic health conditions they may have and weaken their immune system. So, a special vaccine can give their immune system extra help to fight off the flu.
Seniors are given Fluzone High-Dose, a vaccine manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur Inc., and licensed for people 65 years old and older. The Fluzone High-Dose vaccine has four times the flu virus antigens as a standard vaccine, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Antigens stimulate the immune system to protect against the flu germs.
A higher portion of antigens helps to boost an older adult’s immune system and provide better defense against the seasonal illness. Generally, the flu season begins in late fall and runs to the end of spring.
Although the Fluzone High-Dose is designed for seniors, older adults can choose to get the standard vaccine given to adults under 65. In fact, some pharmacists are advising older adults to get the standard flu vaccine now if the Fluzone High-Dose is not yet available in their area.
Studies Show Effectiveness of Flu Vaccines in Older Adults
Health authorities encourage older adults to receive flu shots based on studies that show the effectiveness of flu vaccines in adults 65 years old and older.
For example, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that a vaccine designed for seniors, like the Fluzone High-Dose, was 24 percent more effective in providing protection than a standard vaccine. Another study published in the New England Journal of Medicine also studied the effectiveness of the flu vaccine on people 65 years old and older. Researchers found that over a period of 10 flu seasons, the flu vaccines helped to significantly reduce hospitalization for pneumonia and flu.
Besides seniors, the CDC says the vaccines decrease the risk of dangers of a flu illness between 40 percent and 60 percent within the general population when the flu viruses of a particular season are matched to the flu vaccine. Seniors are encouraged to get flu shots since figures show that people over 65 account for 70 percent to 90 percent of influenza-related deaths during the flu season, according to the CDC. Older adults also account for 70 percent of all flu-related hospital stays.
In addition, a study co-authored by the CDC found that people 85 years and older are more likely to be hospitalized and die from the flu than adults 65 to 74 years old.
Older Adults With the Flu Need Personal Assistance
In many cases, seniors who fall ill with the flu need help in the recovery process. Older adults who live alone or have family members who cannot adequately care for them may need assistance from professional caregivers.
This is particularly the case with seniors who are already managing serious health conditions such as asthma or a lung disease. The flu places older adults in more danger because influenza is a contagious respiratory illness that can range from mild to severe. It also affects the nose, throat, and potentially the lungs.
Seniors, however, may not need caregiving in the early stages of the flu because the flu can start out with a runny nose, cough or other symptoms similar to the common cold. Flu symptoms worsen to include:
- Body aches
A common cold can last for a few days while the flu can last for a few days to two weeks. The longer older adults suffer from the flu, the more likely they may develop pneumonia, or inflammation of the heart, brain or muscle tissues, according to the CDC. These dangerous illnesses can require long hospital stays and potentially lead to death.
Seniors concerned over the delay in getting a flu shot can contact their local pharmacy and ask if a high dose flu vaccine for older adults is available or check with their doctor.
FCP Live-In Caregivers help many seniors with the Flu and other care needs
Skilled, in-home caregivers can help seniors manage daily medications, maintain personal hygiene and good health habits, and prepare foods that strengthen the immune system.
Also, caregivers do light housekeeping tasks to allow older adults to get plenty of rest and stay hydrated to help the immune system fight the infection. Caregivers at FCP Live-In, a leading in-home care agency, provide these and more services to seniors suffering from the flu and other chronic health conditions
In addition, older adults who need affordable in-home caregiving services can contact FCP Live-In at 1 (866) 559-9492.
Medical Daily: https://www.medicaldaily.com/flu-season-2019-are-there-vaccines-elderly-444805
WHO’s delay: https://www.who.int/influenza/vaccines/virus/recommendations/201902_recommendation_addendum.pdf?ua=1
CDC reference: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/qa_fluzone.htm
Reference to first study in NEJM: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1315727?query=featured_home
Reference to second study in NEJM: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmoa070844
CDC percentage for general population: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/vaccines-work/vaccineeffect.htm
CDC percentage of flu-related deaths for people over 65: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/65over.htm
CDC flu symptoms and complications: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/symptoms.htm?