All Your Questions About the Flu Vaccine Answered

Note: This is a guest post from Richard Birkel, Acting Senior Vice President, Healthy Aging, National Council on Aging

Each year in the United States, more than nine out of 10 flu-related deaths and more than six out of 10 flu-related hospital stays occur in people aged 65 and older.

Why? Older adults are more vulnerable to influenza (commonly called “flu”), a serious infectious disease that can lead to hospitalization, pneumonia and even death.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends an annual flu vaccination for everyone 6 months of age and older. For older adults, an annual flu shot is critical and might even be life-saving.

Here are some frequently asked questions about how to protect yourself or an older adult in your life from the flu this year:

I’m a healthy older adult who has never had the flu or suffered any serious consequences. Do I still need to worry about catching the disease?

Yes. Anyone can catch the flu, and older adults are at greater risk for influenza and its serious complications. The flu is a common respiratory infection that is easily passed from person to person through coughing and sneezing or through contact with fluids from an infected person’s mouth or nose.

What should older adults do to best protect themselves against influenza and its related complications?

Vaccination is the best way to help protect against influenza. It is also helpful to take preventive measures, such as covering coughs, washing hands, and staying away from people who are sick, but these cannot replace vaccination as the best method of protection.

What are my vaccination options?

Adults 65 and older have two vaccine options available—the traditional flu shot, as well as a higher dose flu vaccine designed specifically to address the age-related decline of the immune system to trigger a stronger immune response following influenza immunization.

Who should not get a flu shot?

Talk to your health care provider before getting a flu shot if you have ever had a severe allergic reaction to eggs, a serious reaction to a previous flu shot, or Guillain-Barré syndrome.

When should I get vaccinated?

You should get your flu shot as soon as the vaccine is available. If you don’t have a chance to get a flu shot right away, vaccination throughout the influenza season into the winter months and beyond is still recommended and beneficial.

I got the flu shot last year. Do I need to get it again?

Yes. You need to get vaccinated against the flu every year because the types of influenza viruses circulating change annually, which is why a new vaccine is made each year to help protect against the current strains. In addition, immunity to influenza viruses wanes after a year, which makes annual vaccination important.

Is it OK to get a flu shot at a retail store or clinic instead of at my physician’s office?

Yes. Influenza vaccines are now widely available at retail stores, pharmacies, workplace flu clinics, and many more places. You should get vaccinated at a place that is most convenient for you.

Can I get influenza from the flu shot?

No. The flu shot does not contain the live virus, so it is impossible to get influenza from the vaccine.

Does Medicare cover the cost of the higher dose option?

Yes. Both vaccine options are covered by Medicare Part B with no copay.

For more information on flu prevention, visit the National Council on Aging and U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Or check out this infographic.


Related Stories:

How to Help Your Older Loved Ones Prevent Falls

Everything You Need to Know About Reverse Mortgages

What You Don’t Know About Your Local Senior Center


Photo courtesy of the National Council on Aging via ThinkStock


LMj Sunshine

Thank you for info.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you for info.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you for info.

Winn Adams
Winn A4 years ago


J.L. A.
JL A4 years ago

good to know

Grace Adams
Grace Adams4 years ago

I plan to get two more months worth of Epicor, which started out as a multi vitamin and mineral for cows and seems to have an uncanny ability to protect from the flu. It costs almost $10 for a month supply (30 capsules), but I can't stand getting shots.

Robert P.
Robert P4 years ago

One last thing to Robert C, I blieve you may have misundersood me, you use the phrase automatic blame which is not what I am talking about. I am speaking og responsability for harm done only if it is proven the harm was from the vaccination, not frivilous law suits. not shure of spelling. Mary has me paranoid. Just teasing you Mary. I hope we can add a little humor, I do not mean any direspect.Have a nice day

Robert P.
Robert P4 years ago

Mary, I want to make it clear that I do not blame nurses or doctors for the points I have brought up, I believe most including you are good kind people trying to sincerely help their patients. But being human like the rest of us myself included, they can on some occasions be fed corrupted information again myself included. I do not believe everything I read but after lots and lots of investigation the points I have uncovered are easy to verify. I have 3 grown children and 3 grandchildren that I live for and do not want them to be harmed by possible bad side effect. I do not want anyone taking my word for anything, they should read and research everything from all sources, I am just bringing a few topics to investigate and I do not blieve that is inappropriate. I think we both agree more than we realize, we both want the truth and for people to investigate for themselves.If any of my information I have passed along is untrue they will know. Lets find the truth and then make our own minds.

Mary B.
Mary B4 years ago

Robert P........You have said to me from the start that I haven't answered you questions......I guess from my perspective, I hope anyone here reading all these posts will seek out the information for themselves.....good and bad.......we make statements here but always seem to slant them towards OUR personal bias......My thought is to have folks take out of any "sleuthing" they may do what seems right for them given that information......meds are not a perfect science and while we hope that if we take A.....B will happen... but sometimes, with some people, C or even C and D happens.......I have to believe (given my chosen profession) that medicine helps more than it hurts.....otherwise I would be a hippocrit expecting others to take what I didn't belive in...

Sue M.
Sue M4 years ago