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Just as the fabulous days of fall transition into colder temperatures, the return of flu season is upon us. While experts say getting an annual influenza vaccine is the best way to avoid being bitten by the bug, not all older adults are believers. For many seniors, the myths about flu shots keep them from being vaccinated.
And that can be dangerous. Estimates are that 75 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths and well over half of all seasonal flu-related hospitalizations are people 65 years and older.
With that in mind, we decided to take time this week to separate fact from fiction when it comes to influenza vaccines.
Five Common Myths about Flu Shots and Flu Season
Myth #1: The flu shot gives you a small dose of the virus to help you build up your immunity to it.
FACT: This is one of the single most deadly myths about the flu shot. Many seniors believe that if they get the vaccine, they will develop the flu. But the experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that this just isn’t so. According to the CDC, the virus in the flu shot is inactivated. A person who receives a flu shot will not get sick from an inactive virus.
Myth #2: Flu vaccines don’t change much year to year, so you don’t really need to get one each fall.
FACT: The label “vaccine” can lead people to believe this myth. The truth is that the formula does change every year. It is re-formulated to target strains of the flu experts believe will be a problem each season.
Myth #3: Getting the flu shot in October is too early. Waiting until December or January means you’ll be protected for the whole flu season.
FACT: Flu shots are effective in helping to prevent the virus for a whole year. Since flu season sometimes heats up in November, experts advise getting the vaccine in October. This gives the vaccine time to work before the worst of flu season begins.
Myth #4: Medicare recipients must have their influenza vaccine at a physician’s office or it won’t be covered.
FACT: Not true. Healthcare providers who accept Medicare can usually provide the vaccine to you at no cost. For many Medicare recipients, getting the vaccine at the flu shot clinic at a local senior center or at their pharmacy may be quicker and more convenient. Check with the provider to make sure they accept Medicare first.
Myth #5: If you don’t feel sick or if you aren’t exhibiting flu-like symptoms, you can’t spread the virus.
FACT: This myth can be dangerous for older adults. Family caregivers might not take time to get their flu shot. That can lead them to unintentionally passing the virus on to a senior loved one whose immune system may be compromised. A lack of symptoms doesn’t mean the virus isn’t present. In fact, researchers say 20 to 30 percent of people who have the influenza virus don’t exhibit any outward signs of it.
If you have more questions about the flu shot or the 2017-2018 flu season, the Seasonal Influenza Center at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a great place to find answers.
Healthy Living at Sunrise
Flu safety is just one of the many health and wellness topics we share information about. We talk about aging-related issues ranging from stroke prevention to strength training, making new friends in retirement and healthy hobbies for older adults every day. Follow the Sunrise Senior Living Blog to stay on top of the latest news affecting older adults!