New high dose flu vaccine to be available for seniors this winter

According to the NYS Department of Health, influenza (flu) is a respiratory infection that can cause serious complications for older adults and people with certain medical conditions. Examples of chronic medical conditions that can increase the risk of complications include:

∫ Asthma

∫ Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

∫ Diabetes

∫ Kidney or liver disease

∫ Cancer or cancer treatment

∫ Obesity

According to a 2016 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people age 65+ suffer most from the flu. In fact, up to 70 percent of flu-related hospitalizations occurred in this population in recent years. Additionally, 90 percent of flu-related deaths are in people over age 65. As we get older, our immune systems get weaker. Therefore, our bodies are more vulnerable to the flu virus and its related risks.

The best way to help prevent the flu, according to the CDC, is to get an annual flu vaccination. This is especially true for people with chronic health conditions because the flu can worsen these conditions.

Common questions about flu shot include:

Q: How long does it take after I get a flu shot for immunity to peak?

A: It takes up to 2 weeks to build immunity, but you can benefit from the vaccine even if you are unable to receive the shot until flu season has started.

Q: Why do I have to get a flu shot every year?

A-1: New vaccines are released each year to keep up with the rapidly adapting flu viruses. Viruses evolve so quickly, last year’s vaccine may not protect you from this year’s viruses.

A-2: In general, antibodies that protect you from viruses begin to decline over time.

Q: Can I get the flu from the vaccine?

A: NO! The flu shot cannot cause the disease. The vaccine is made from attenuated (dead) viruses. After vaccination, your immune system produces antibodies that protect you from the flu viruses.

Q: Where can I get the flu shot and how much will it cost me?

A-1: Going to your doctor is the preferred way to get the vaccine. Additionally, if it is alright with your physician, you can also get flu shots at most pharmacies in the area.

A-2: Flu shots are paid for as part of the preventive services agreement with Medicare.

Good news for seniors: We currently have a new high-dose flu vaccine for people over 65. This vaccine is formulated with 4X the amount of each antigen which will give seniors a higher level of flu-fighting antibodies for their declining immune systems. This vaccine is very safe with few side effects.

You can also help to protect yourself from the flu and other contagious diseases by:

∫ Washing your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water.

∫ Use a hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.

∫ Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

∫ Avoid crowds when the flu is in your area.

∫ Practice good health habits. Get plenty sleep, exercise regularly, drink plenty of fluids and eat a nutritious diet.

For more information, contact your healthcare provider or HealthLink Littauer at 518-736-1120. You can e-mail us at healthlink@nlh.org, see our website at nlh.org, or visit our new wellness center at 2 Colonial Court in downtown Johnstown, Monday trhough Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. We’re your community health & wellness service of Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home.

Carol Tomlinson is a community health educator for HealthLink Littauer.

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