Flu & People 65 Years And Older: An Overview and Guidelines

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This year, National Influenza Vaccine Week is being observed from December 6-12. For seniors, getting a flu vaccine during 2020-2021 is more important than ever because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This article from the CDC gives an overview of the flu and people 65 years and older.

It has been recognized for many years that people 65 years and older are at high risk of developing serious complications from flu compared with young, healthy adults. This risk is due in part to changes in immune defenses with increasing age. While flu seasons vary in severity, during most seasons, people 65 years and older bear the greatest burden of severe flu disease. In recent years, for example, it’s estimated that between 70 percent and 85 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older, and between 50 percent and 70 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations have occurred among people in this age group.

A Flu Vaccine is the Best Protection Against Flu

Flu Vaccine Reduces Risk of Flu Illness and Serious Outcomes

Flu vaccination has many benefits. It has been shown to reduce flu illnesses and also to reduce the risk of more serious flu outcomes that can result in hospitalization or even death in older people. Flu vaccination has been shown in several studies to reduce severity of illness in people who get vaccinated but still get sick.

The best way to protect against flu and its potentially serious complications is with a flu vaccine. CDC recommends that almost everyone 6 months of age and older get a seasonal flu vaccine each year by the end of October. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating, vaccination should continue throughout flu season, even into January or later.

Flu vaccination is especially important for people 65 years and older because they are at high risk of developing serious complications from flu. Flu vaccines are updated each season as needed to keep up with changing viruses. Also, immunity wanes over a year so annual vaccination is needed to ensure the best possible protection against flu. A flu vaccine protects against the flu viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. (See Vaccine Virus Selection for this season’s exact vaccine composition.) Flu vaccines for 2020-2021 have been updated from last season’s vaccine to better match circulating viruses. Immunity from vaccination fully sets in after about two weeks.

Because of age-related changes in their immune systems, people 65 years and older may not respond as well to vaccination as younger people. Although immune responses may be lower in older people, studiesexternal icon have consistently found that flu vaccine has been effective in reducing the risk of medical visits and hospitalizations associated with flu.

Learn more about:

  • The Types of Flu Shots for People 65 and Older
  • Other Preventive Actions, and
  • Symptoms and Treatment

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