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The AGS Foundation for Health in Aging - News - What Older Adults Should Know About This Year's Flu Shot and Other Essential Vaccination Information

FHA Media Contact:
Jill Lubarsky
(212) 308-1414
What You Should Know About This Year's Flu ShotAnd Other Essential Vaccination Information
From the American Geriatrics Society's Foundation for Health in Aging

NEW YORK – October 25, 2011 – The American Geriatrics Society's Foundation for Health in Aging has released an easy-to-understand tip sheet that outlines what older adults and those who care for them need to know about this year's flu shot and other essential vaccination information

This year’s flu shot protects against three flu viruses that are currently the most common viruses worldwide, including the 2009 H1N1 virus. Research shows that older adults who receive an annual flu shot decrease their chances of being hospitalized for the flu and its complications. It can take up to two weeks for the vaccine to become fully effective, which is why older adults should get vaccinated as soon as possible.  Flu season peaks in late January or early February.      

"More and more older adults are recognizing how essential flu shots are to their health. However, there are other potentially life-saving vaccinations that older adults also need, but may not be getting," said Kenneth Schmader, MD, Professor of Medicine, Geriatrics at Duke University & the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center (GRECC), Durham VA Medical Center, in Durham, NC.  Medicare covers flu, pneumococcal, and most other vaccines that protect seniors' health.


Flu Shot
What It Does: The 2011 flu shot protects against three strains of influenza virus.
Who Needs It: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the flu shot for everyone six months of age and older. While everyone should get a flu vaccine, the CDC notes that it is especially important that anyone who is 65 years of age or older, lives in a nursing home, or has a serious health condition such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, lung disease or HIV should get a flu shot because they are at higher risk of having serious flu-related complications. Caregivers of older adults should also be sure to get vaccinated so they do not spread the flu to an older person.
What’s New: This year older adults have three flu shots available to choose from—a regular dose flu shot, a new high-dose flu shot made for people 65 years and older, and a regular dose flu shot that is administered with a smaller needle.  All three shots protect against the same three flu viruses.
The high-dose shot may provide a stronger immune response, however whether this results in greater protection against influenza illness in older adults is not yet known.  One thing to note: the high-dose flu shot is more likely to cause pain, redness and swelling at the injection site and mild, but temporary headache, muscle aches, fever and discomfort.
The flu shot that can be given with a shorter, thinner needle delivers the vaccine under the skin instead of into the muscle. This shot offers the same dosage and degree of protection as the regular flu shot.
At this time, the CDC states that any of these shots are acceptable for older adults. 
Who Should Not Get It: People who are allergic to eggs, have had allergic reactions to flu shots in the past, or have been diagnosed with Guillian-Barre Syndrome.
When to Get It:   Every year, ideally in October or November.

Pneumococcal Shot
What It Does: Protects against pneumococcal bacteria, which can cause pneumonia and blood and brain infections.
Who Needs It: Anyone 65 years of age or older who has not previously received the vaccine.
When to Get It: Only once, unless you had the shot before turning 65 (in that case you’ll need a “booster” shot after 5 years).

Tetanus/Diphtheria Shot
What It Does: Protects against two potentially deadly bacterial infections.  A second, and different, form of the vaccine (Tdap) protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (the adult whooping cough). 
Who Needs It: Everyone.
What’s New: It is now recommended to get a one-time dose of the “Tdap” version if you are 65 or older, are in contact with an infant, or want to be protected from whooping cough.
When to Get It: Once every 10 years.

Shingles (herpes zoster) Shot
What It Does: Protects against the development of shingles—outbreaks of sometimes intensely painful rashes or blisters on the skin—reducing the risk by 51%. Protects against the development of chronic pain from shingles (also called postherpetic neuralgia), reducing the risk by 66%.
Who Needs It: The CDC recommends this vaccine for adults 60 years of age and older.
Who Should Not Get It:  People who have active tuberculosis, or problems with their immune system, such as leukemia, lymphoma, other malignant diseases involving the bone marrow or lymph system or HIV infection, as well as those taking drugs that suppress the immune system.
When to Get It: Once.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends additional shots—including the Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccination, and shots for Varicella, Hepatitis A and B, and Meningococcal disease—for older adults who run an increased risk of these diseases because they have certain health problems, occupations, or lifestyles. Ask your healthcare provider if you should get any of these additional shots.

The AGS Foundation for Health in Aging (FHA) is a national non-profit organization established in 1999 by The American Geriatrics Society. We aim to build a bridge between the research and practice of geriatrics and the public, to provide public education on healthy aging, and to advocate on behalf of older adults and their special health care needs. Please visit http://www.healthinaging.org/ for more information.
Founded in 1942, the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) is a non-profit organization of nearly 6,000 healthcare professionals whose shared mission is to improve the health, independence and quality of life of older people. Our vision for the future is that all older adults will have access to quality healthcare that meets their unique needs. To achieve this, the Society focuses on: advancing eldercare research; educating all healthcare professionals about the unique aspects of geriatrics care; enhancing care delivery for older adults; raising public awareness of the healthcare needs of older people; and advocating for public policy that ensures older adults access to quality, appropriate, cost-effective care. The Society is a pivotal force in shaping practices, policies and perspectives in geriatrics. Please visit http://www.americangeriatrics.org/ for more information.

The AGS Foundation for Health in Aging - News - What Older Adults Should Know About This Year's Flu Shot and Other Essential Vaccination Information

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