Why COVID-19 increases the importance of a flu shot for the elderly

It is critical for the health of senior citizens that they get that annual flu shot, because they are much more vulnerable to contracting the flu as an age group. With the spread of COVID-19 across America, and the heightened vulnerability of the elderly to Coronavirus, getting your flu shot is now even more important. 

“You don’t want to be confused with being ill or not feeling well and with your sickness being wrongly diagnosed as COVID positive,” stresses Pride PHC Vice President Andy Cruz.

Here are four reasons why senior citizens should be getting a flu shot in 2020.

#1 Flu vaccines change every year

The flu vaccine is altered every year by the makers of the vaccine to keep up with evolutions of the virus. 

“The flu mutates every year,” noted Cruz. The flu vaccine is developed every year in North America, depending on the strain of the virus that surfaces during the southern hemisphere flu season which occurs six months before our flu season in the northern hemisphere. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a flu vaccine protects against the strains of flu that research indicates will be the most common during the upcoming season. This year’s vaccine has been updated from last season to better match circulating viruses. 

#2 You can’t get the flu illness from the flu shot

It is a common misconception that you can get the actual flu bug from the flu shot. That is just not true, according to physicians. Most of the currently recommended vaccines are made with “inactivated viruses“, which means they cannot become live again.

“You may experience some soreness, or even a slight fever after getting the shot, but it is not the flu virus,” said Cruz. Those side effects are actually caused by your body becoming more immune to the actual flu virus and those side effects are in fact a good sign. If you have concerns about your health after receiving the flu vaccine, reach out to your physician for more information or advice. 

#3 The effectiveness of the flu shot varies from year to year

The effectiveness of the flu vaccine can vary from season to season, depending on how well-matched the vaccine is when developers predict the circulating strains of the season. The University of Southern California says the flu shot generally is between 20 and 60 percent effective. 

“The effectiveness of the flu shot varies from person to person depending on their age, health, and pre-existing conditions,” says Cruz. Many say they still get the flu that season despite getting a flu shot. That may be the case, but in many of those cases, because they got the shot, their illness was less serious than if they didn’t get the vaccine at all.

#4 A high-dose flu shot can better protect seniors

For this year’s flu season, seniors who are 65 and older should investigate the possibility of Fluzone, which is a high-dose flu shot. That is because the immune response after seniors receive the regular shot is not nearly as great as with the high-dose shot. Dailycaring.com says by receiving the lower dose vaccine, the effectiveness of the vaccine will be much lower and can increase the risk of developing a more severe illness. 

Not only that, but if you have the flu and are exposed to COVID-19, your body will have a much harder time fighting both illnesses. Battling one virus can be hard enough for the elderly, but battling both at the same time could lead to much more serious health problems. 

“That means the chance of a person having to go to a hospital increase significantly, and during this COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals can’t be pushed to the breaking point where they can’t give everyone the standard of care they deserve,” said Cruz.

Just like any year, all senior citizens should be getting a flu shot. But this year, make it a point to do so, and get the high-dose vaccine. You’ll not only protect your own health, but also those around you.

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