Do You Need a Flu Shot Every Year?

Vaccinating an elderly person

With the vaccine largely focused on the new RSV shot and the updated COVID-19 booster, it’s easy to overlook that flu season has arrived. One question that health care professionals hear every year about this time is whether an annual influenza vaccine is really necessary. Some people believe the virus is similar from one year to the next, so getting an annual flu shot isn’t necessary. Experts say, however, that’s a bad assumption to make, especially if you are a senior.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), strains of the flu virus drift and shift each year. Some years, the difference is especially significant. Because of that, the vaccine is designed to protect against what are anticipated to be the most common strains for the upcoming flu season.

Why Influenza Is Especially Risky for Elders

While younger adults with stronger immune systems might be able to fight off the virus, older people might not. For seniors, a case of the flu can be serious and potentially even life-threatening. While being sick is no fun at any age, it poses different risks for older people:

  • Can lead to complications associated with influenza: People over the age of 65 are at higher risk than younger people for flu-related complications. Pneumonia is one of the most dangerous. Every year, older adults make up 85% of deaths and almost 70% of hospital admissions for the flu and complications linked to it.
  • Can exacerbate pre-existing health conditions: As we age, our immune system often becomes weaker. Many times, it’s due to health conditions that are more common with age, such as heart disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The influenza virus can cause these health conditions to worsen.
Busting Two Common Myths About the Annual Flu Vaccine

One of the best ways to protect yourself against the flu is by having an annual vaccine. But false information associated with vaccines might keep people from getting one.

Here are two common misperceptions about the flu shot:

  • The vaccine gives you a small dose of the flu to build immunity.

A senior who could really benefit from having the vaccine might resist it because they mistakenly think it will make them sick. According to the CDC, these vaccines build immunity by administering either an inactivated virus or a single strain of the flu. This produces an immune response in the body that protects you from the flu without making you sick.

  • Flu shots are painful and cause nasty side effects.

In most cases, the shot itself is administered with a fine-gauge needle that is largely painless. If you relax your arm as you receive the vaccine, it will further help minimize discomfort. Also make sure to move your arm around afterward to prevent stiffness. The most common side effects are fairly minimal, too. They might include soreness at the injection site, a minor headache, and muscle aches, which all resolve fairly quickly.

When Should You Receive a Flu Shot?

Finally, another question people often ask is when to schedule their flu shot. While your primary care physician is probably the best person to answer this question, experts say mid-October is likely best. If you haven’t discussed timing with your doctor in the past, however, check in with them for advice. You’ll need to be certain to get it early enough to give the body time to build up immunity before the influenza virus begins to make its rounds.

How to Shoo the Flu During Influenza Season has more tips to help you avoid the flu this winter.

Another Safety Measure for Seniors

If you are a senior or the adult child of one, flu vaccines are just one safety measure you should consider. Another is to invest in an emergency call system. This discreet device allows the user to call for help with a simple press of a button. Call 1-844-203-5617 to learn more today!