The Critical Need for Geriatric Flu Vaccination

Each year, the flu strikes particularly hard on individuals 65 and older. Annually, this cohort makes up about 90% of flu-related deaths and more than 60% of the seasonal flu-related hospitalizations. Although many of these people may have been vaccinated, studies find the normal flu shot is not as successful protecting adults over the age of 65; they would benefit from a higher dosage vaccine.

As people age, their immunity becomes weaker, placing older individuals at greater risk of severe illnesses resulting from influenza. Most people who get influenza can recover in up to two weeks, but some fall victim to complications that can be life-threatening. Common complications following influenza include pneumonia, bronchitis, and worsening chronic health issues—the severity of which are all more intense among seniors. Getting vaccinated each year with a flu vaccine aimed at better protecting seniors can significantly decrease the hospitalization rate and prevent complications resulting from influenza. 

Drug manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur offers such an influenza vaccine, Fluzone High-Dose, developed specifically for those 65 and older. This geriatric vaccine quadruples the amount of antigen, the component that prompts the body to make antibody, contained in regular flu shots. With the additional amount of antigen, the purpose is to create a stronger immune response in the person getting the vaccine, subsequently providing better protection against the flu. A recent study has shown the high-dose vaccine was nearly 25% more effective in fighting off the flu in adults 65 and older compared to the standard-dose vaccine.  In addition, both Medicare and insurance plans cover Fluzone High-Dose. 

It has been predicted that by 2050, more than 20% of the U.S. population will be over the age of 65, compared to less than 14% in 2012. As life expectancy increases, the need to vaccinate seniors with specialized immunizations will become even more critical. Assist your patients in staying up to date with their vaccine schedule—you’ll be helping your patients and those around them stay protected from severe illnesses.