Every year, between 5 and 20 percent of people in the U.S. come down with the flu. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 200,000 people are hospitalized from complications, and flu-related deaths average 23,500 each year. More than half of such hospitalizations involve people age 65 and older. Keeping that in mind, there is no question that as soon as new vaccines become available, it’s time to get on board!

Seasonal influenzas are very contagious. Although they vary in severity, complications that target older adults and people who have chronic medical conditions (diabetes, asthma, congestive heart failure, lung disease), can become severe. They include bacterial pneumonia, ear or sinus infections, dehydration, worsening of chronic medical conditions, and sometimes even death.

Different strains of flu viruses are identified each year. After determining which strains will most likely cause illnesses, researchers design vaccines to combat the three most severe viruses. This year a new vaccine, the Fluzone High-Dose, has been developed for people aged 65 and older.  Because immune defenses often weaken with age, the new vaccine’s higher dose of antigen may provide better protection.

Besides getting a vaccine, to prevent influenza from spreading:

  • Avoid people who are sick with the flu.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Get plenty of sleep, and drink lots of fluids.

Luckily, vaccines will be available at doctors’ offices and public health clinics, as well as supermarkets, pharmacies, schools, churches, senior centers and other places for the next few months.  To find one near you, visit the CDC’s “Flu Vaccine Finder” at flu.gov.

Final note: Fluzone high-dose is not recommended for people who are severely allergic to chicken-eggs or have had a severe vaccine reaction in the past. If you’re not sure it’s right for you, check with your doctor before getting your flu vaccine.