Flu + You Campaign – Protect, Learn, Understand, Safeguard
~ Educating Older Adults About Influenza and Prevention ~
Flu + You is a national public education initiative, from the National Council on Aging with support from Sanofi Pasteur, to educate adults 65 and older about the dangers of the influenza virus (commonly known as “the flu”), the importance of annual vaccination, and available vaccine options. Actor Lee Majors, best known for his iconic television role as The Six Million Dollar Man, is joining the campaign this year to help spread the word about this important public health issue.
Many people are unaware that the immune system typically weakens as we grow older. This means that no matter how healthy or youthful we feel, when we are 65 and older, we are more vulnerable to the flu and its related complications.1 Each year in the United States, roughly six out of 10 flu-related hospital stays and nine out of 10 flu-related deaths occur in people 65 and over, making flu vaccination crucial for this population especially.2 The flu can make existing health conditions worse, and it is especially dangerous for people with lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and cancer, conditions which commonly affect older adults. People with these conditions are more likely to develop complications from the flu that can result in hospitalization and even death. 3 Ninety-two percent of adults aged 65 and older have at least one chronic condition and 77 percent have two or more.4
The CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older as the single best way to protect themselves against the flu.2 Annual vaccination against the flu is especially critical for older adults due to their higher risk of flu and its complications.5 However, for many adults, getting any flu shot may not be enough to protect them. It is important that older adults understand their vaccine options and select the best vaccine for their stage of life. There are now many types of flu vaccines, with several specifically indicated for certain age groups or immunization needs, including adults 65 years of age and older. In addition to the traditional vaccine option (which helps protect against three strains of the flu virus), there is a new flu shot this year that helps protect against four strains of the flu, and there also is a higher dose flu vaccine designed specifically to address the age-related decline of the immune system. The higher dose flu shot improves the production of antibodies in older patients.1 Antibodies are the soldiers of the immune system that help fight infection when the body is exposed to the virus.6 Whichever vaccine option is selected, the good news is that an annual flu shot is a Medicare Part B benefit. This means that the vaccine is covered with no copay for Medicare beneficiaries 65 years of age and older.7
Older adults and their caregivers can learn more about vaccine options and the importance of getting an annual flu vaccine on the Flu + You website, www.NCOA.org/Flu, which features videos with flu experts, a public service announcement with Lee Majors, and facts about the flu.
The Flu + You campaign will also be conducting local educational events in twelve cities throughout the United States in September and October where older adults can learn more about their risks for flu and available vaccine options. Health care providers will also be on hand to answer questions about the flu and provide flu vaccinations. A calendar of the events can be found at www.NCOA.com/Flu.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Fluzone High-Dose Seasonal Influenza Vaccine. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/qa_fluzone.htm. Accessed May 2, 2013.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Study Shows Flu Vaccination Prevents Hospitalizations in Older Adults. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/spotlights/flu-vaccination-older-adults.htm. Accessed July 8, 2013.
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). People at High Risk of Developing Flu-Related Complications. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.htm. Accessed May 2, 2013.
4. Steven Machlin, MS, Joel W Cohen, PhD, Karen Beauregard, MHA. MEPS Statistical Brief #203. Health Care Expenses for Adults with Chronic Conditions. 2005.
5. CDC. Seasonal Influenza (Flu) What You Should Know and Do this Flu Season If You Are 65 Years and Older. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/65over.htm. Accessed July 8, 2013.
6. CDC. How Vaccines Prevent Disease. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/howvpd.htm. Accessed July 8, 2013.
7. Medicare.gov. Flu shots _ Medicare. http://www.medicare.gov/coverage/flu-shots.html. Accessed July 8, 2013.