Influenza, more commonly called the flu, is often perceived as a harmless illness. While most people recover from influenza in as few as seven days, it can be much more difficult for those over 65.1,2 Adults in this age bracket are at risk of developing more severe complications including pneumonia or worsening of underlying medical conditions such as diabetes.3 In fact, in 2014-2015, adults 65 and over accounted for up to 70% of influenza-related hospitalizations and 85% of influenza-related deaths.4
One of the more effective ways to prevent influenza is vaccination. All Canadians aged six months and older are encouraged to receive an annual flu vaccine, but in the elderly, vaccine effectiveness is ~50% less than that in healthy adults.1
More effective vaccines exist for older adults whose immune systems do not respond as well to the standard version.1,2,5 This higher-dose influenza vaccine has four times the antigen than a standard flu shot, and should provide superior protection compared with the standard dose vaccine according to Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI).1,6
Along with practicing healthy habits like eating well, hand washing before eating, and exercising regularly, adults over 65 should make vaccination a priority to protect themselves from the flu.4
Check out these other quick tips to help stop germs that cause influenza:7
- Avoid close contact with others who are sick.
- Stay home if you are sick to prevent spreading your illness to others.
- Cover your nose and/or mouth when coughing or sneezing.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Although the higher-dose influenza vaccine is not publicly funded through provincial flu vaccine programs in Canada, certain clinics throughout the country carry the vaccine. Speak with your healthcare professional to find out which vaccine is recommended for you.
- Public Health Agency of Canada (2016). An Advisory Committee Statement (ACS) National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI). Canadian Immunization Guide Chapter on Influenza and Statement on Seasonal Influenza Vaccine for 2016-2017 http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/naci-ccni/assets/pdf/flu-2016-2017-grippe-eng.pdf
- Public Health Agency of Canada (2016). An Advisory Committee Statement (ACS) National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI): A Review of the Literature of High Dose Seasonal Influenza Vaccine for Adults 65 Years and Older http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/naci-ccni/assets/pdf/influenza-vaccine-65-plus-vaccin-contre-la-grippe-65-plus-eng.pdf.
- Husein N, et al. Influenza and Pneumococcal Immunization Canadian Diabetes Association Clinical Practice Guidelines Expert Committee. Canadian Journal of Diabetes. 2013; 37 Supplement 93. http://www.canadianjournalofdiabetes.com/article/S1499-2671(13)00028-2/pdf
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What You Should Know and Do this Flu Season If You Are 65 Years and Older. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/65over.htm.
- Public Health Agency of Canada (2016) An Advisory Committee Statement: National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) Canadian Immunization Guide Chapter on Influenza and Statement on Seasonal Influenza Vaccine for 2016-2017 http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/naci-ccni/assets/pdf/flu-2016-2017-grippe-eng.pdf
- DiazGranados, C. A. et al. Efficacy of high-dose versus standard-dose influenza vaccine in older adults. The New England journal of medicine 371, 635-645 (2014). http://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJMoa1315727
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Preventing the Flu: Good Health Habits Can Help Stop Germs. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/habits.htm