Getting Vaccinated For Flu

Like clockwork, flu season starts again every fall. The flu vaccine is the best protection against influenza; all individuals over 6 months should get the shot. Specific populations, such as the elderly, are at higher risk of complications from the flu and require a different type of flu shot for added protection. When seeking a quadrivalent flu vaccine, should people over 65 visit a doctor or pharmacist to get vaccinated?


The science of vaccination

Most vaccinations work similarly. An injection is given an inactivated or weakened form of a virus that doesn’t cause an individual to become sick but instead prompts the immune system to start a practice response. Once learned, the body can easily replicate such a response should the actual illness be encountered. The flu vaccine isn’t 100% effective but can protect against severe disease and hospitalization, which is especially important for the elderly.

Added protection for 65+

Older people are more susceptible to complications of diseases since the immune system does not work as well. This means individuals over the age of 65 require more protection. A quadrivalent flu vaccine, which contains 4 strains of flu that are anticipated to be circulating in the community, is typically recommended for this population. Some versions of the quadrivalent flu vaccine will also contain higher amounts of antigens or adjuvants to help create a stronger immune response for the person being vaccinated.

Where to get vaccinated

Not every pharmacy or store will carry quadrivalent flu vaccines, so older people must plan ahead when getting vaccinated. The best place to start is with a personal primary care physician (PCP), who may carry the high-dose vaccines. Remind the doctor of the need for added protection if over 65, and be sure the office has a quadrivalent version available. If the PCP does not carry the specific vaccine needed, a pharmacist can help. Pharmacists are very knowledgeable about the various vaccines available and can ensure the correct shot is given. Pharmacies may also be a much more convenient location to get vaccinated, as appointments are generally not required, and older people can walk in whenever is convenient.

Timing matters

Flu season varies each year, but activity typically increases in October and can last as late as May. Cases of flu usually peak in the Winter months, between December and February. Since the body requires about 2 weeks to develop an immune response, people are encouraged to get vaccinated by the end of October before cases are high.

Get vaccinated today

The elderly are considered a priority population for flu vaccination. A quadrivalent vaccine with higher amounts of antigen or added adjuvant can help provide optimal protection against influenza. People over 65 should plan to get vaccinated by the end of October by visiting a healthcare provider or pharmacist. A provider will know the patient’s health history and can make sure the right vaccine is given, but a pharmacist is equally knowledgeable and may be a more convenient option. With a quadrivalent vaccine, elderly individuals can stay protected against the flu all season.


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