Flu Vaccines for Seniors: Which is Best?

As you get older, it can become harder to fight off disease and maintain senior wellness. Immune systems tend to lose strength with age, leaving you more susceptible to illness. Flu vaccines for seniors can bring a lot of questions, and we’ve compiled the answers here. Fortunately, when flu season rolls around, you can protect yourself and your immune system by getting a flu vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that everyone over the age of six months gets a flu shot every year to lower the risk of developing and spreading influenza.

Risks of influenza
Flu season can be more serious for seniors than others and the majority of hospitalizations from the illness come from people who are 65 years or older. Most people get the flu between October and May, but the strains of flu and amount of people who become infected are different every season.

The symptoms of the flu can range from mild to severe, but they are usually much worse than a regular cold. The most common symptoms in seniors include:

  • high fever of 100 degrees or more
  • runny/stuffy nose
  • headaches
  • body aches and chills
  • cough and/or sore throat
  • nausea or vomiting
  • fatigue

For seniors who experience flu-like symptoms, it is important to get checked out by a doctor in case you need antiviral medication. Seeing a doctor when you have the flu can also reduce the risk of developing other complications or infections while your immune system is weakened.

Who should get a flu vaccine
Flu shots are approved for those over the age of six months, but there are certain individuals who could be more prone to complications from the illness and should get a vaccine. Seniors are more likely to develop complications and other illnesses once they have the flu.

Getting a flu shot won’t affect personal finance for seniors, as the vaccines are covered by Medicare once a year.

Types of flu vaccines

There are several different options when choosing a flu vaccination, but none are necessarily better than others. From nasal spray to injections, you can find a seasonal vaccine that is suited for your needs.

The CDC does not recommend one type of vaccine over another, but it highly suggests getting one every year. For the 2013 to 2014 flu season, there are four options for seniors: the standard shot that covers three strains of the flu, the new quadrivalent shot that protects against four strains, an egg-free option and a high-dose injection.

“Getting some type of vaccine is important,” Richard Zimmerman, a flu vaccine specialist at the University of Pittsburgh, told AARP. “Which one you get matters less.”

Higher doses of flu vaccine have been available since 2012 and may be more effective for seniors. A recent study by Sanofi Pasteur, a manufacturer of flu vaccines, showed that high-dose vaccines were 24.2 percent more effective at protecting seniors from the flu than a standard dose.

For those who have supplemental insurance, the price of high-dose vaccines can be more. However, some private senior health insurance plans don’t charge a copay for a flu shot once every year.

Pete Blasi