Influenza, commonly referred to as the flu, is a virus that is active year-round. However, as the weather gets cooler, the number of flu cases increases. This increase in flu cases is called the annual flu season which extends from late September to early May. Unlike the common cold which rarely develops into other health problems, the flu can be a pathway for pneumonia, sepsis, and other inflections.

Millions of people in all age groups get the flu every year with seniors over the age of 65 being the majority of hospitalizations and the highest number of deaths related to this virus. Unlike other long-acting, multi-year vaccination protection, the antibodies from the flu shot only protect you from the current most common form of the virus strains. As the virus strains change, revised vaccines are developed for each new flu season.

Getting your annual flu shot is the most effective way to protect yourself from becoming infected or to lessen the effects of the virus if you do get the flu. A flu shot is also a positive way to help safeguard others from the virus who have medical reasons for not getting the flu shot.

What to Know About the Flu Shot

• If you have Medicare benefits, the Medicare Part B insurance covers one free annual flu shot given by medical professionals, health care centers, and pharmacies that have been approved by Medicare to give the flu vaccinations.

• Because the immune system of seniors is less able to defend against infections, the flu shot can add a level of protection against this illness.

• The high-dose vaccines, Fluzone and Fluad, have been developed specifically for seniors over the age of 65 to protect against several strains of the flu.

• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting your flu shot as early as possible during the flu season because the antibody protection within your system takes a full 14 days to develop.

• Because the flu is a respiratory illness, getting the flu shot may help prevent the onset of pneumonia, a serious flu-related complication.

• Because the Covid-19 pandemic is still active, contagious, and easily transmitted, getting a flu shot is very important for all individuals with health issues and for all seniors with a low immune system protection.

• Having a flu shot is not a guarantee that you will not get the flu. Contact your medical provider immediately if you suspect that you have the flu. There are antiviral medications that can be used to lessen the effects of the flu.

• If you have had a bad reaction to a previous flu shot, ask your medical provider if you should get the vaccine for the current flu season.

• The flu shot is not recommended for individuals have allergic reactions to eggs or mercury. Talk with your medical provider about the best preventive methods for your individual situation.

• Talk with your medical provider to see if you qualify for the flu shot if you have one or more chronic medical illnesses or take medications that may put you at risk for complications from side effects.

• Some individuals may experience potential flu-like symptoms for one or two days after getting the vaccine. Typical side effects that subside within 24 to 48 hours include a low fever, headache, or tenderness at or near the injection site.

Final Thoughts

Every individual is unique and may react differently to vaccinations. The vast majority of seniors with Medicare benefits will benefit from getting their annual flu shot. The vaccine is listed as one of the covered Medicare Part B services provided free of cost.

Because you will have to go out of your home for the flu shot, remember to take all of the Covid-19 precautions such as wearing a mask, maintaining social distances and washing your hands as soon as you return home. When you get your flu shot you are protecting yourself and helping to protect all those that you are in close contact with.

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