Let’s talk flu shots

By Cyndy Kulp
AgeWell Medical Associates

It is that time of year – flu season, and time for all seniors to take precautions to protect themselves and keep healthy.  The Centers for Disease Control recommends that all seniors get an annual flu vaccine, and that it be received by the end of October.

Why should seniors be vaccinated against the flu?  Not only is it an important preventive tool for people with chronic health conditions, but studies show that people over the age of 65 are most vulnerable to the debilitating effects of flu, such as serious illness, hospitalization and even death.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, there were 3,340 reported hospitalizations of flu during the 2016/2017 flu season and out of those, 1,886 were people 65 years and older. That means that over 56 percent of those hospitalized for flu in Colorado last year were over 65. In addition, 123 flu outbreaks were reported in long term care facilities.

AgeWell Medical Associates, a local medical practice for seniors age 60 and up, recommends that patients go to their primary health care provider to receive their flu vaccine. Since providers maintain the patient’s medical record, the vaccination is recorded right away, along with information about the source of the vaccine, so that there is never any question about if the patient has been vaccinated.

In addition, one’s regular health care provider is already familiar with the patient’s health history and concerns. Most primary care practices can easily accommodate their patients for flu shots, either by including one in an existing appointment or by offering flu clinics or other expedited arrangements for shots to be given with minimal waiting.

While a flu vaccine does not provide 100 percent protection against contracting the flu, it is generally effective between 40-60 percent of the time.  Some protection is preferable to no protection at all from this serious and potentially fatal disease.  A flu shot will also reduce the severity of illness in people who are vaccinated, but still get sick.

For seniors, a special high-potency flu vaccine is recommended because as one ages, his/her immune system weakens. At AgeWell Medical, all patients receive the Fluad vaccine that has an added ingredient to increase the immune response in older patients.  Patients should ask their provider about this special vaccine for seniors, as a regular flu shot may not provide enough immunity.

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