Protecting Older, Vulnerable Patients From the Flu

People aged 65 and older account for more than 60% of the estimated 226,000 flu-related hospitalizations and 90% of the 3,000 to 49,000 flu-related deaths in the United States each year. This age group is at highest risk for contracting influenza and developing its potentially serious complications, including pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus and ear infections, and coronary problems. Flu symptoms can even exacerbate other comorbid conditions. This puts patients at greater risk for complications and reduces quality of life. Collectively, these health issues can result in hospitalization and even death in older patients. Be Vigilant of Those at Higher Risk for Flu As the 2012-2013 influenza season continues and we look ahead to the next, it’s important to improve community-wide vaccination rates so that we can protect public health, especially when treating adults aged 65 and up. Seniors are at higher risk for influenza because the immune system weakens with age. In turn, the body’s ability to produce a sufficient amount of protective antibodies is reduced. When considering influenza vaccine resources for the season, it’s important to offer a variety of vaccine options and newer delivery systems. Merle C. Turner, DO A few years ago, the healthcare world received good news when a higher dose of the influenza vaccine was approved by the FDA for older patients. Designed for those aged 65 and older, the vaccine generates a stronger immune response because it contains four times the amount of antigen as the standard dose. While the high-dose vaccine has shown a higher risk for side effects at the injection site, there is no greater risk of a systemic reaction than...