Older adults urged to get influenza vaccination

The National Council on Aging urged older adults on Tuesday to follow recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and get their influenza immunizations for the upcoming season.

The NCOA launched the new "Flu + You" campaign this year in an effort to increase vaccination rates among adults 65 and older. The campaign is meant to inform older adults about the serious threat that influenza can pose and the vaccine options covered by Medicare for the age group.

"Each year in the U.S. about nine out of 10 flu-related deaths and more than six out of 10 flu-related hospitalizations occur in adults 65 and older," Richard Birkel, the director of the NCOA's Self-Management Alliance, said. "For this reason NCOA wants to help protect older adults from influenza and ensure that people in this age group and those who care for them fully understand the importance of annual immunization and the vaccine options available to them. Through the Flu + You program, we want to help older adults live a better, healthier life."

The traditional flu vaccine may not work as well for people 65 years and older because the weakened immune system produces fewer antibodies after vaccination to stop infection. Adults who are 65 and older can get a traditional flu shot or a higher dose flu shot.

"Because older adults are at such increased risk, they should make sure they are vaccinated before influenza viruses start causing illness in their communities, ideally getting vaccinated in the late summer or fall months," Carolyn Bridges, the associate director for adult immunizations at the CDC, said. "Getting vaccinated not only helps protect yourself, but also helps prevent the spread of flu to loved ones and others who are at high risk, such as infants and young children, pregnant women, and anyone with a chronic health condition, such as heart disease and diabetes."

The NCOA is a nonprofit service and advocacy organization that speaks for older adults, particularly adults who are disadvantaged and vulnerable.