Shoo the Flu: What to Know about the Influenza Vaccine

Here’s what you should know about flu shots

This is the season of the year when an unwelcome visitor usually makes its return: the influenza virus. Older adults and their families often have many questions about the illness and the value of the flu shot.

There are many misconceptions about the flu vaccine. Some people believe the flu shot causes you to get the virus and that helps you build up your immunity against it. Others think getting the shot every few years is “good enough.”

The Statistics on Flu Season

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu is a serious health threat for people over the age of 65. Here are few statistics that highlight the risk:

  • Up to 90% of the flu-related deaths are people aged 65 and older.
  • Seniors make up between 50% and 70% of people who are hospitalized every year for complications from the flu.
  • The flu can aggravate existing health conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cardiac disease and diabetes.

Flu shots are also important for family members of seniors and for caregivers. This is because up to 20% of the people who are infected with the flu virus aren’t even aware that they have it.

Answering the Most Common Questions Older Adults Ask About Flu Shots

To help you sort fact from fiction when it comes to being vaccinated this flu season, we are answering some of the mostly commonly asked questions.

Q: Does the flu shot make people develop the flu?

A: This is the most persistent myth about the flu shot. Because the vaccine does not contain a live virus, you cannot get the flu from the shot.

Q: I got the vaccine late during last year’s flu season so I won’t need it again this year, right?

A: Nope! That just isn’t correct. Because the vaccine changes each year based on what strains of the flu are predicted to be a problem, you must have a flu shot every year.

Q: The pharmacy where I get my prescriptions filled is already promoting flu shots. Shouldn’t I wait until winter to have it?

A: When to schedule an appointment to have a flu shot is another big concern for seniors, their caregivers and families. Most experts say the shot takes up to two weeks to work and protect you from the virus. Since flu season has been known to make the rounds as early as mid-October, most physicians advise patient to have their vaccination in early October or even in late September.

Q: Will my Medicare pay for the flu shot?

A: Medicare does pay for the flu shot. If the provider you would like to receive the vaccine from accepts Medicare, the shot will be covered in full.

Q: Will I need to obtain an order from my doctor for Medicare to pay for the flu shot?

A: The good news is no physician order is necessary for Medicare to pay for the flu shot. This gives seniors more options on when and where they can receive their vaccination.

Q: Are there people who should avoid a flu vaccine?

A: Yes, there are a few groups of people who need to speak with their physician for advice about the flu shot before receiving it. This includes those with egg allergies, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, and people who have had a negative reaction to the shot in the past.

We hope this helps clear up some of the myths about flu season!

Don’t forget ask your pharmacist about getting your COVID Booster and an RSV vaccination, too. Remember what it was like before we had the COVID vaccine? Here’s a 3rd Act story about the toilet paper shortage during the early days of the pandemic.

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