Flu season is reaching its peak, and if you’re among the many (at least 60 percent of Americans, says the CDC) who put off getting vaccinated, you might think it’s too late. But you’d be wrong – and what’s more, unlike last year, this year’s flu vaccine appears to be right on the money. In other words, the medical community made the right guess.
Last Year’s Flu Vaccine “10 Percent Effective”
Last year on the AgingOptions blog we wrote, “The flu season, say the headlines, is in full swing, but once again the officials in charge of our national health care have made the wrong guess about the particular strain of the flu virus that is most prevalent.” A Newsweek article at the time, commenting on the 2017-2018 flu season, estimated that “the flu vaccine may only be 10 percent effective against this year’s most common strains.” Each year health officials are required to make what the article called “an educated guess about what virus is likely to be the one that makes people sick,” but last year they guessed wrong. The result, according to this CDC report, was “a high severity season with high levels of outpatient clinic and emergency department visits for influenza-like illness.” Last year’s outbreak was so bad, it was the first ever to be classified as “high severity across all age groups.” In other words, it was terrible.
This year appears to be different. We discovered this Forbes magazine article from early January reporting that the 2018-2019 vaccine is “working well.” According to Forbes, “the vaccine this year contains just the right strains! This doesn’t always happen; actually, it happens much less frequently than anyone would like.” But with plenty of flu cases to analyze, the CDC can now test the viruses that are out there and compare them to the targeted strains in this year’s vaccine. “This year, both the H1N1 and the H3N2 viruses match the vaccine strains really well, which means that if you got the shot, you are likely to be very well protected.”
Yes, There’s Still Time for Your Flu Vaccine
But with February here, can you still get vaccinated? The answer is yes, but you need to hurry, since it can take up to two weeks for the vaccine to take full effect. Most larger chain drug stores are still offering flu shots, and the season typically continues well into March. In this article on the Augusta Free Press website, one infectious disease expert said, “Now is the time to get a flu shot—it is not too late.” His assessment echoed that of the Forbes article. “The public should know,” he said, “that the flu vaccine is still effective for the current flu season. There is still time to get the full benefits of the vaccine, which continues to be the number one most effective way to protect yourself, your neighbors and the most vulnerable.” No vaccine is perfect, and you still might catch the flu even if vaccinated, but the odds of avoiding it or at least suffering a milder case improve significantly if you’ve had the shot.
Flu Vaccine Benefits Appear to be Cumulative
Here’s another reason to get your flu shot every year. As we reported last year on the AgingOptions blog, new research has shown that those who get vaccinated annually – even in years like 2017-2018 when the vaccine was marginally effective – tend to build up a degree of resistance to the virus. This article from the website HealthDay said last year that there is strong, new evidence that annual flu shots repeated over multiple consecutive years definitely help keep vulnerable seniors out of the hospital. “New research shows that for older adults, faithfully getting the vaccine each year greatly reduces the odds of catching a flu so severe that it lands you in the hospital.” The article describes a Spanish research study which revealed that those seniors who get their flu shot year after year reduce their risk of dying from influenza by an amazing 70 percent, and they are also 74 percent less likely to wind up in intensive care due to effects from the flu bug. According to Dr. Jesus Castilla, the Spanish research physician who authored the study, “The findings bolster the notion that although getting a flu shot doesn’t always prevent the flu, it can make it milder for those who do catch it.”
As one doctor put it, “The most important take-home message is to get your flu shot and not worry about how effective it is this year.” She adds that “People might be more inclined to skip [the vaccine],” but they definitely should not, because “this study really emphasizes that a primary benefit is [that] year after year of consistently getting that flu shot helps keep people out of the hospital and ICU.”
Get the Right Health Care with a Geriatrician
As we at AgingOptions read these articles, they bring to mind the critical importance of getting good, solid, age-appropriate medical advice. For seniors, we strongly advise that you seek out the services of a geriatrician, someone trained in the unique health needs of older adults. A geriatrician will take the time to get to know you, answer your questions, and give you medical advice that is right for your age and circumstances – the exact opposite of the “cookie cutter medicine” all too common today. If you’ll contact us at AgingOptions we will gladly refer you to a geriatrician in your area.
What about your retirement planning? Here, too, it’s vital that you work with someone who will take the time to listen to you and get to know your circumstances – not someone who will suggest a one-size-fits-all approach that may seem suitable today but is sure to prove dangerously inadequate in the future when health concerns loom and housing plans become unsustainable. At AgingOptions we call our comprehensive retirement planning approach LifePlanning, and we invite you to join Rajiv Nagaich at a free seminar where you can get the facts about this retirement breakthrough for yourself. We offer these LifePlanning Seminars at locations throughout the Puget Sound region, and we would love to have you join us. For dates, times and locations, click here to visit our Live Events page. Then register online or call us during the week.
LifePlanning Seminars do fill up fast, so why not register today? It will be our pleasure to meet you.
(originally reported at https://consumer/healthday.com and other sources)