INDIANAPOLIS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Last year’s flu vaccine wasn’t as effective as usual, resulting in the highest hospitalization rate for the flu among seniors ever documented.i But that doesn’t mean this year’s shot should be neglected, according to Dr. Richard Frank, medical director for Medicare products at Anthem Inc.
Frank said the flu strain mutated after last year’s vaccine was developed. This year’s shot has been designed to manage that mutation, which makes public health experts optimistic that it will be much more effective in stopping the flu.ii The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease.
“The flu vaccine can help people avoid months of potential complications and even hospitalization,” said Frank. “It is one of the best things seniors can do to take control and remain healthy this flu season.”
Flu season generally starts around October and continues through May. It commonly peaks in January or February. The cost of the vaccine and its administration is generally covered by Medicare Part B, as long as the provider accepts Medicare patients. It is available at multiple locations, including doctor’s offices, health clinics, health departments, pharmacies, college health centers, some employers and even some schools.
Each year approximately 5 percent to 20 percent of U.S. residents get the flu and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized for flu-related complications.iii In recent years, it is estimated that between 80 percent and 90 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths have been in people 65 years and older and between 50 percent and 70 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations have been in people in that age group.iv
The shot comes in various formulations. Some shots, known as trivalent, cover three viruses, while a newer shot, known as a quadrivalent, covers four. There also is a “high dose” vaccine designed specifically for those 65 years old and older. Patients should talk to their doctors about the shot that is best for them as well as any concerns they may have.
In addition to the vaccine, it is important for older adults to take precautions to prevent the flu. This includes avoiding close contact with infected people, keeping hands away from the face, washing hands with soap and water, getting plenty of sleep, being physically active, managing stress, drinking plenty of liquids and eating nutritious foods.
Anyone with flu symptoms should contact their health care provider immediately to determine if antiviral treatment would assist in their recovery. Early treatment of flu-hospitalized people 65 and older with flu antiviral medications cuts the duration of their hospital stay and reduces their risk of needing extended care after discharge, according to a recent CDC study.v Most Medicare plans cover antiviral drugs on their formularies.
Along with a flu vaccine, older adults should also inquire about getting a pneumonia vaccine. There are two types of pneumococcal vaccine recommended for use in adults — pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) and pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23). Both vaccines, which are administered just once at different times, work in different ways to provide maximum protection.
For more information about the dangers of flu and the benefits of vaccinations, talk to a health care provider or visit www.cdc.gov/flu. To find the nearest place to get a flu shot, go to www.vaccines.gov and type in your ZIP code on the vaccine finder.
This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider for advice about treatments that may affect your health.
Anthem Inc. affiliates are PPO plans, HMO plans and PDPs with a Medicare contract. Enrollment depends on contract renewal.
About Anthem Inc.
Anthem is working to transform health care with trusted and caring solutions. Our health plan companies deliver quality products and services that give their members access to the care they need. With over 72 million people served by its affiliated companies, including more than 38 million enrolled in its family of health plans, Anthem is one of the nation’s leading health benefits companies. For more information about Anthem’s family of companies, please visit www.antheminc.com/companies.