Did you skip your flu shot last year? You are not alone.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that about 30% of people 65 and older chose not to get a flu shot last year. And that’s just the tip of the proverbial vaccination iceberg. Flu is not the only vaccination that older adults are neglecting. According to the CDC, 43% of those 65 and older are not current on tetanus shots, and two-thirds didn’t receive the recommended shingles vaccine.
Influenza is a variety of viruses, not just one strain. So, every year scientists predict which strains will circulate in a given flu season and match the vaccine to what they think the flu viruses will be for that year. It’s a guessing game. Some years the scientists are right, and other years they are not.
To improve your chances of escaping the flu, consider a vaccine created for seniors. Three vaccines are currently available that fit that bill.
- Flublok Quadrivalent and Fluzone High-Dose vaccines both appear more effective in older adults than the standard vaccine. Fluzone contains four times the amount of antigen than regular flu shots -- making it 24% less likely for those vaccinated to catch the flu than those who received a standard shot. A New England Journal of Medicine study found that people 50 and older who received Flublok were 30% less likely to get the flu than those who received the standard vaccine.
- Fluad works on the immune system, prompting a stronger response than the traditional flu shot.
What to do if you cannot track your vaccinations
If you’re unsure if you have been vaccinated or when, there’s no harm in being vaccinated again. If the idea of getting a shot bothers you, you can also request that the provider titer or test your blood to determine if you have the antibodies in your system. That will tell you if you ever received it or still have an immunity to the illness or not. Be aware, though, that you will have to return to get your results and/or get the shot if the results show you are not protected and need a booster.
Dr. Emily Cheshire is an assistant professor and clinical director at CU Family Health Clinic at Belleview Point, a University of Colorado College of Nursing nurse-led clinic in Parker. Emily holds a DNP, MS, BS, and presents in the community on a variety of topics that affect the elderly.