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New flu shot designed for seniors debuts this fall

August 28, 2012
by pamela tabar
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As Labor Day approaches to mark the traditional end of summer, long-term care facilities are turning their efforts toward educating their residents on the importance of the seasonal influenza and pneumonia vaccines.

This year, a new type of flu vaccine has been developed with seniors specifically in mind. The “high-dose” flu shot provides four times more antigens than the standard vaccine, designed to stimulate an older person’s lower immune response, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) FAQ page.

Both strengths of influenza vaccine will be available this fall, and both are covered by Medicare Part B. The CDC stresses the importance of immunization for seniors, regardless of which type of vaccine is used.

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) has launched a new national campaign to improve influenza education and vaccination rates among seniors. The “Flu + You” website provides wellness information for residents as well as a free educational toolkit for caregivers and nursing home administrators, including handouts, posters, prerecorded public service announcements, and tips on talking with seniors about flu risks.

Influenza infections often cause flare-ups of underlying chronic conditions in the elderly, leading to a high hospitalization rate, according to a report from the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

Annual immunization also is critical for elderly residents who are in contact with young children who have not been vaccinated, the report adds.

The NCOA estimates that in any given flu season, most flu-related deaths and more than half of flu-related hospitalizations occur in people aged 65 and older.

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