The first week of December is National Influenza Vaccination Week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) specifically identifies those over age 65, especially people who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, as being at high risk for influenza complications.
The National Council on Aging estimates that in any given flu season, most flu-related deaths and more than half of flu-related hospitalizations occur in people age 65 and older. The council’s “Flu + You” program, launched in June, offers articles and toolkits to promote the importance of influenza vaccinations for seniors and their caregivers.
It normally takes about two weeks for a healthy person’s immune system to react to the flu shot, stocking the body with an arsenal of antibodies to guard against this year’s influenza strains. This year, those who plan to get the vaccine should do so sooner rather than later, agencies advise, since the 2012 flu season is expected to peak much earlier than usual.
The influenza vaccine is available as an injection or as a nasal spray. This fall, the CDC introduced a new type of flu shot designed especially to stimulate the slower immune systems of senior, hoping to provide greater protection. Flu shots can be obtained from your physician or from neighborhood pharmacies and stores; see the Flu Vaccine Finder map to check for local vaccine stations in your area.