According to a recent survey, 96 percent of grandparents said they consider the holiday season "an important time for families to be together." But as people throughout Scranton/Wilkes-Barre plan to spend time with their families, it's important to remember that the flu will do its best to be in attendance as well.
Everyone over 6 months of age is recommended to receive an annual flu vaccine, but vaccination is especially critical for grandparents and other older relatives. Older adults are more vulnerable to the flu due to a weakening of the immune system that occurs with age. In fact, six out of 10 flu-related hospitalizations and nine out of 10 flu-related deaths occur in adults 65 years of age and older. Despite this, more than 30 percent of older adults in this age group did not get a flu shot last season in Pennsylvania, increasing their risk for contracting the disease.
Unvaccinated older adults can easily spread the flu to other family members, and this can be especially dangerous for infants under six months of age, as they are too young to receive the vaccine themselves.
"My mother generally doesn't get a flu shot," revealed Jennifer Sacks, a new mom. "But last year when I invited her to come and visit her new granddaughter, I also asked her to speak with her doctor about the flu shot before her trip. He explained that if she got even a mild case of the flu, she would be posing a risk to her new granddaughter, which convinced her to get vaccinated right away."
Adults 65 and older should talk to their health care providers about their flu vaccine options. This year, adults in this age group can receive either the traditional flu shot or a higher-dose vaccine that addresses the age-related decline of the immune system by triggering the body to produce more antibodies against the flu. Both vaccines are covered by Medicare Part B with no co-pay.
To help spread these important health messages, the National Council on Aging (NCOA) has brought the Flu + You campaign to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this year to help educate older adults about the importance of getting a flu shot and to let them know that it's not too late to get vaccinated.
"The NCOA knows how important the holidays are to older adults and their families, which is why we are reminding them that getting a flu shot can also help keep their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren healthy as well," said Richard Birkel, PhD, MPA, Acting Senior Vice President of Healthy Aging, Director of NCOA's Self-Management Alliance. "The flu is serious, but vaccination is the most effective way to help prevent it. It is an easy step toward having a healthy and happy holiday season."
To find a location near you that can provide flu vaccines, click this link: http://flushot.healthmap.org/
Did you know?
- Each year in the United States, more than 90 percent of flu-related deaths occur in adults age 65 and older.
- In Pennsylvania, more than 30 percent of adults age 65 and older did not get a flu shot last season, increasing their risk for contracting the disease.
- As we age, our immune system weakens, making adults 65 and older more vulnerable to influenza and its complications.
- Adults 65 and older have two vaccine options - the traditional flu shot and a higher-dose flu shot designed to help address the age-related weakening of the immune system.
- Both the traditional and higher dose vaccines are covered by Medicare Part B with no co-pay for people 65 and older.
(Information From NCOA)