Skip to content Skip to navigation

Encourage residents to get vaccinated against flu

September 24, 2014
by Lois A. Bowers, Senior Editor
| Reprints

Those working in senior living environments should ensure that residents and older workers are vaccinated against the flu, health officials recommend.

State performance

Here’s how certain states fared when it came to flu vaccination during the 2013‒2014 flu season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For data on all states, visit the CDC website.

Highest overall flu vaccination rates:

  • South Dakota: 57.4 percent
  • Rhode Island: 56.9 percent
  • Hawaii: 54.4 percent
  • Massachusetts: 53.3 percent
  • Tennessee: 52.7 percent

Lowest overall flu vaccination rates:

  • Nevada: 36.4 percent
  • Florida: 37.5 percent
  • Wyoming: 37.6 percent
  • Idaho: 37.9 percent
  • Arizona: 38.5 percent

“We can’t predict what this season is going to be like—severe or less severe,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, said at a recent press conference held by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) in collaboration with the CDC and several other organizations. “We can’t predict exactly which strains are going to be circulating. But we can predict that the best way you can protect yourself against flu is to get a flu vaccination this year, and now’s the time to start getting one.”

People aged more than 65 years are especially vulnerable, the officials relayed. “Last year, 65 percent of 65-year-olds got a flu vaccination. Typically, most of the hospitalizations and deaths are in this population,” Frieden said, also noting “big differences between different states and how they do on flu vaccination.” (See sidebar, right.)

Overall vaccination rates during the 2013-2014 flu season were 45.3 percent for those aged 50 to 64 years and, as Frieden noted, 65 percent for those aged 65 or more years. Vaccination rates were higher among women aged 50 to 64 than among men in the same age group, but rates were similar among men and women aged at least 65 years. Of men, 42.7 percent of those aged 50 to 64 were vaccinated, and 65 percent of those aged at least 65 years were vaccinated. Of women, 47.7 percent of those aged 50 to 64 were vaccinated, and 65.1 percent of those aged at least 65 were vaccinated. (See chart, below.)

This year’s flu shot

This year’s flu shot protects against the three or four viruses suggested by research to be the most likely to spread, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  1. A/California/7/2009 (H1N1) pdm09-like virus
  2. A/Texas/50/2012 (H3N2) virus
  3. B/Massachusetts/2/22012-like virus
  4. B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus

A high-dose flu vaccine is now available for those aged 65 or more years, noted William Schaffner, MD, professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and past president of the NFID. It “provides a larger dose of antigen—that’s the part of the vaccine that actually stimulates the body’s immune response to create antibodies,” he explained. “New data, recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, indicate that the high-dose vaccine leads to significantly higher antibody levels in people aged 65 and older and also, those higher antibody levels translate into greater protection against influenza. So the vaccine really does its job as intended.”

The CDC has posted flu vaccination information for healthcare professionals on its website.

Because getting the flu increases a person’s chances of getting pneumococcal disease, health officials also recommend that older adults are vaccinated against pneumonia at the same time they receive the flu shot.

Related content:

Flu vaccination low among long-term care workers

CDC recommends 2 pneumonia vaccines for older adults