Oct 23

Flu Shots: A Lifesaving Idea

by Stacia Dahl

Q: My grandmother doesn’t believe in flu shots and she refuses to get one. I have heard that getting a flu shot becomes more important as you get older. Is this true and, if so, how do I convince her to start getting one?
     -Pat from Great Falls

A:  You are correct to be concerned for your grandmother – many people don’t understand how risky the flu virus can be. Statistics show us that approximately 40,000 Americans die each year due to pneumococcal infections, with seniors representing the largest group of fatalities.  Yet, only 58 percent of Americans over 65 receive the influenza vaccine.

Flu season runs from October through May. The good news is that you can protect yourself from the flu by getting your annual flu shot. The flu shot is a harmless vaccine. So you need to ask yourself what you would prefer: spending weeks feeling lousy or getting a quick, painless shot in the arm.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a seasonal flu shot every year for people 50 or older. People 65 or older have two options – the regular-strength flu shot or Fluzone High-Dose, a vaccine that creates a stronger immune response to combat agerelated weakening of the immune system. Your health care provider can help you decide which dosage is better for you. 

As part of the Affordable Care Act’s preventive benefits, people in Medicare and Medicaid can get an annual flu shot at no cost and both flu vaccines are covered. For everyone else, many insurance plans provide coverage for the flu vaccine. It is best to double check on your co-pay or responsibility for payment.

Where to get a flu shot?
Flu shots are available in many locations such as your doctor’s office, work places, supermarket or drugstore. Because costs may vary it’s a good idea to first check with your insurance provider about coverage. To find where you can get the flu shot, visit http://flucliniclocator.org or call the CDC hotline at 1-800-CDC-INFO for help.

Prevent catching or spreading the flu.
You can catch the flu if you’re around an infected person who coughs or sneezes. You can also pick up flu germs from touching a surface that someone with the flu has touched, such as a telephone or doorknob, then passing the germs from your hand to your nose or mouth. Take these steps to protect your health:
• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
• Remember, if you have flu-like symptoms such as a fever, chills or body aches, be sure to see your doctor. For more information, visit www.aarp.org/flu.

Do you have a question for AARP Montana?
Send your question to “Ask AARP Montana” at MTAARP@aarp.org or 30 W 14th St., Helena, MT 59601 or call our toll-free hotline at 866-295-7278. As we receive questions, we will consult with both internal and external experts to provide timely and valuable advice.

Stacia Dahl is associate state director for communications in the AARP Montana State Office.


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