By Bette Simpson
Especially Important for Adults 65 years and Older
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) tells us that getting a flu vaccine during 2020-2021 is more important than ever for all of us because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The CDC goes on to say that flu vaccination is especially important for adults 65 years and older, who account for most hospitalizations and deaths from flu and from COVID-19. The risk for this age group is due in part to changes in immune defenses with increasing age; in recent years this group has experienced between 70-85% of seasonal flu-related deaths and between 50-70% of flu related hospitalizations. Flu viruses usually change from year to year, so it is important to receive flu vaccine annually.
What many people don’t know is that there is a high dosage vaccine (Fluzone High-Dose) and an adjuvanted vaccine (one with an added ingredient that helps create a stronger immune response in people) called Fluad that are available to seniors 65 and older and that have been shown to significantly increase flu immunity. Sometimes doctors’ offices have such a high demand for these vaccines that they can’t keep them in stock, and physicians may recommend that their patients get the stronger vaccines in local pharmacies where Medicare and other insurances cover the cost, just as they do in doctors’ offices. You need to ask for them, though—don’t just assume that you will be given the stronger vaccines automatically.
Coinfection Worse than Either Alone
It is especially important this year to protect yourself from getting the flu through vaccination, while practicing the habits that will keep you safer from COVID-19 (wearing a mask, keeping a safe distance away from others, frequent hand washing, etc.). Epidemiologists tell us that coinfection with both viruses has a far worse result than infection from either one of them alone, although that is bad enough. As winter and the holiday season approach and we are indoors more of the time, it is crucial that we do all we can to keep from getting ill ourselves and from infecting others. So—stay safe and well by taking all the steps that are within your control. Get vaccinated against the flu, and protect yourself from COVID-19 by practicing good health habits. All of us benefit when each of us takes personal responsibility to protect ourselves and our friends, family, and community from virus spread.