Higher flu vaccine suggested for adults over the age of 65 (320x240)
For elderly adults, getting a flu shot is essential to maintaining good health, according to experts at Baylor College of Medicine. Image courtesy of the CDC.

It is recommended that everyone over 6 months of age receive his or her annual influenza vaccination. For elderly adults, getting a flu shot is essential to maintaining good health, according to experts at Baylor College of Medicine. 

“It is very important for all elderly adults, unless they have an allergy or specific contraindication, to have the flu vaccine,” said Dr. Angela Catic, assistant professor in the Huffington Center on Aging at Baylor. “Approximately 40,000 individuals, most of whom are elderly, die each year from the flu.”

The flu is a common condition that can be seen in all ages of individuals but elderly adults have a higher risk of complications, as do the very young. “The elderly are complex, not only because they are aging but because they often have underlying health issues that predispose them to risks of complications,” said Dr. Wendy Keitel, professor of molecular virology and microbiology and medicine at Baylor.

Currently there are several influenza vaccines available for older adults, including a high-dose inactivated influenza vaccine containing three influenza strains approved for adults 65 and older. Although, any age-appropriate vaccine can be used, the high-dose vaccine has been shown to offer better protection than the standard dose vaccine among the elderly, and some clinicians prefer to recommend it to standard dose vaccines containing three or four influenza strains.

“Studies have also shown improved immune responses among elders one month after receiving the high-dose compared to the standard vaccine,” said Catic.

Keitel said that although not every doctor’s office will provide elder patients with a high-dose flu vaccine, the most important message is to get elders vaccinated as soon as possible.

“It is important for elderly patients to not miss an opportunity to get vaccinated. Generally, individuals should have their flu vaccine by the end of October, however, do not fail to get your flu shot even if the epidemic has already started,” said Keitel.

Everyone, and especially elder adults are encouraged to get their flu vaccine to protect themselves, and those around them, from developing the flu and possible complications Receiving the vaccine is the best defense elders have against getting the flu.