Flu Season 2012: What Seniors Should Know About the Flu Shot

By December 12, 2012Healthy Aging

Every year, seniors over the age of 65 have the highest incidence of flu-related deaths and hospital admissions. For this reason alone, it is vital seniors get vaccinated before the flu season officially starts. Flu season begins in October, peaks between January and February and is ends in May. The earlier people receive the vaccine, the better their chances of avoiding the flu. The Center for Disease Control recommends that people of all ages receive the flu shot, starting at six months of age.


Once administered, the vaccination itself takes time to reach its potential. Generally, it takes around two weeks after receiving the shot for antibodies to develop within the body. After these antibodies are present within the bloodstream, they provide the highest protection against the flu virus itself.


The vaccination this year is a bit different from the type used last year. Like last year’s flu shot, this one contains an ingredient to protect against H1N1, which is also known as the swine flu. The two remaining ingredients protect against H3N2 and influenza B. These ingredients have been adjusted for the 2012 flu shots because the flu virus itself changes every year. Due to these changes, people must be vaccinated every year in order to receive the most protection.


The down side is that receiving a flu shot does not guarantee people will not contract the flu virus. In fact, the vaccine is only about 60 percent effective in preventing the virus. There can easily be a variation in what the vaccine protects against and the actual flu virus circulating within the public. In addition, some people may have been exposed to the flu virus immediately after receiving the shot, leaving them open to contract the virus before their immunity builds up. Another problem for seniors can be that their immune systems do not develop an adequate response to the vaccination, leaving them unable to fight off the virus.


Seniors over the age of 65 can speak with their doctor about receiving a high potency flu shot, which was introduced last year. Many seniors may need a stronger dose of the vaccine to stimulate their immune system and develop an adequate resistance to the flu. The good news is that the higher potency vaccine does not pose any additional health risks. Seniors are encouraged to speak with a medical professional about vaccination options before receiving a yearly flu shot.


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