Flu Shots for Older People: Helpful or Harmful?

According to the Center for Disease Control, flu season in America reaches its peak around October. This means September is typically the time when people run out to get their shots. With all the hullabaloo about the effectiveness of vaccines in recent years, however, people are getting vaccinated less and less. This is especially true for children whose parents believe that vaccines are dangerous (they’re not). Since the release of a debunked book in 2012 claiming a link between vaccines and autism for which a doctor lost his license to practice, people have lots to say about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. Arguably, however, children shouldn’t be the basis of this debate. This week’s blog will look into claims that vaccines don’t work as well for the elderly, how these conclusions were found, and that they mean for older people at home hoping to receive care but who are unsure where to turn.

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The Study: Claims and Conclusions

A 2015 study tracking influenza mortality rates over 33 years reported that although the rate of vaccination rose 15% throughout that time, death rates stayed relatively stable. Many doctors who read the study argued that the researchers did not make a clear distinction between older adults who had been vaccinated and those who had not, nor did they clarify if the deaths could have been linked with a high predisposition for influenza due to another health issue such as diabetes. Those conducting the study noted, however, that there is still a need to vaccinate as we age.They merely stated that the study was conducted to discover where there was room to improve the current system of vaccination.

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Solutions

One solution to the issue has actually been in place for years. For people aged 65 and older, a higher dose of the vaccine is recommended. In doing this, older folks are more likely to take to the immunization well and be safe during flu season. Additionally, the CDC recommends the adjuvanted flu vaccine, Fluad as a precaution which helps strengthen the immune system’s response in older people. They also recommend getting vaccinated for pneumococcal diseases like meningitis and pneumonia for extra precaution during the sick season. Another solution to this plateau in medical advancement actually goes back to children. By making sure children are vaccinated, medical professionals help eliminate the portion of the population most likely to spread the disease in the first place. Because people over 65 make up approximately 90% of deaths associated with influenza, it is important to do everything possible to keep them safe. This is especially true for those with weakened immune systems due to preexisting conditions.