Flu Shots Are Still Important—Here’s Why
Last flu season was rough. Nationwide, the CDC estimates there were as many as 640,000 flu-related hospitalizations. And adults ages 65 and older were significantly more likely than the general population to have serious flu-related complications, including pneumonia, heart attack, and stroke.
Even some people who had their flu shots got sick last year. Yet getting the flu vaccine is still crucial. Although it can’t prevent every case of the flu, it’s your best protection. And if you do get sick, your symptoms may be milder.
How the flu vaccine works
Flu viruses occur in many varieties. Every year, scientists predict which flu viruses will be most common in the coming months. Then they make a vaccine targeting those viruses.
The scientists’ predictions turn out to be more accurate in some years than in others. What happens if the viruses in the vaccine and those going around a few months later aren’t a perfect match? The vaccine can still be helpful. That’s because a vaccine targeting one virus may offer at least some protection against similar viruses.
Why you need the vaccine
It’s especially important to protect yourself from the flu as you age. Older adults are at a higher risk for hospitalizations from the flu and flu-related deaths.
Why is your risk higher now? Aging weakens your immune system. This makes it harder for your body to fend off the flu. Other health conditions—such as heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes—add to the risk for flu-related problems.
Vaccines work with your immune system to provide protection from illness. So your response to the flu vaccine may be a bit weaker now, too. Ask your health care provider about special forms of the vaccine designed to overcome the impact of an aging immune system.
Be sure to get your flu shot. It’s not too late to get vaccinated in December to make sure you’re still protected.
Often, the vaccine will keep the flu away. But if you do get sick, it could make the difference between a minor issue and a life-threatening illness.