Over 65? Plan on a Flu Shot

As soon as we cross the threshold into August, Fall seems to be just around the corner.  While returning to school and other hallmarks of the season may look different this year, September and October are still good months to get vaccinated for the flu.  Older adults who may be more vulnerable to becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 infection should take extra precautions to protect their health by staying active, eating a healthy diet, managing stress, and continuing to receive regular vaccines.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are two new vaccines licensed for use during the 2020-2021 flu season.  The first is a quadrivalent high-dose vaccine for adults over the age of 65, replacing the previous trivalent high-dose vaccine.  The second new vaccine is a quadrivalent adjuvanted vaccine for use in adults 65 years and older. It is similar to the previous MF59 adjuvant trivalent vaccine with the addition of an influenza B component.  Talk with your doctor about which vaccine is appropriate for you. 

Influenza (flu) and the Novel Coronavirus are both contagious respiratory illnesses but caused by different viruses.  Some of the symptoms of the flu are similar to the symptoms of COVID-19 and it may be difficult to determine which is causing illness without testing.   Getting a flu vaccine will not protect against COVID-19 but the flu vaccine can reduce the risk for illness, hospitalization, and death.  When medical resources are in high demand during the pandemic, it’s more important than ever to do everything possible to stay healthy, especially for vulnerable populations who have underlying health conditions like diabetes or heart disease or who are over the age of 65. 

To help protect higher risk groups, the CDC will increase the availability of this season’s vaccine.  The same groups that are at greater risk for COVID-19 need to be protected from influenza to lower their risk for co-infection.  Routine vaccination can help prevent illness leading to unnecessary medical visits and hospitalization that can put people at greater risk for COVID-19 exposure. 

A flu vaccine should not be given to anyone with suspected or confirmed coronavirus infection until they have met the criteria for discontinuing isolation.   The updated criteria for patients outside of healthcare settings for discontinuing isolation include having passed 24 hours since the last fever without fever-reducing medication and an improvement in symptoms associated with COVID-19.  

Learn more about the similarities and differences between Flu and COVID-19 by following this link to the CDC Seasonal Influenza webpage.