EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 5, 2013

Her husband refuses to get a flu shot

Elder Q&A
Roseanne DiStefano

---- — :Q: The summer is almost over and fall is approaching. I know I am soon going to be facing the same stressful conversation with my husband that I go through every year about this time. I always get a flu shot towards the end of September or early October. The problem is with my husband (age 70) who adamantly refuses to get the vaccination. He has several health conditions which puts him at higher risk of complications if he gets the flu. What facts can I use to try and convince him he really needs to get the shot?

A: Our immune system weakens as we age which understandably makes individuals age 65 and over more susceptible to the seasonal flu. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) states 90 percent of flu related deaths and 60 percent of flu-related hospitalizations occur in this age group. These statistics alone should encourage older adults to get the flu shot on an annual basis. On a personal level a flu shot not only protects you but also anyone you may come into contact with because you won’t be spreading the flu to others.

For individuals 65 and older there are two options for vaccination both of which are covered by Medicare Part B (no co-payment required). Your personal physician can make a determination which shot makes sense for you, the traditional flu shot or a higher dose flu shot specifically designed for older adults. The higher dose vaccine triggers a stronger immune response, side effects occur more often but they are usually mild and temporary.

It has become much more convenient for individuals to get the annual flu vaccination. You always have the option of making an appointment at your doctor’s office to get your shot. In many instances the vaccine is available earlier at other locations such as retail stores, community flu clinics and local pharmacies. Early fall is the optimal time for vaccination but if for some reason you miss on getting the shot at that time it is still recommended to get vaccinated even into the winter months. Flu viruses change from year to year and the immunity weakens after a year making it essential to get vaccinated on an annual basis.

Contrary to some people’s belief you can not get the flu from a flu shot, the vaccine does not contain the live virus. There are some individuals who should not get vaccinated including anyone who has a severe allergic reaction to eggs or has had a serious reaction to a flu shot such as Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Direct correspondence to ro@esmv.org or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc. 360 Merrimack Street B#5, Lawrence, MA 01843. Rosanne DiStefano is the Executive Director of Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc. For additional information or to schedule an appointment call 1-800-892-0890.