The crisp air may have you thinking about football and pumpkins, but the change in season has health professionals concerned about the onset of flu season, and particularly about its impact on adults ages 65 and older.
Only about six in 10 Americans in that age group get the flu shot. While that’s higher than the overall national average of 46 percent, it’s below the Centers for Disease Control’s target of 70 percent flu vaccine coverage, according to new data from the CDC.
The reason that health officials are concerned about older adults is that they’re more likely to be hospitalized or die as a result of catching the flu. Even months after they’ve recovered, older adults who’ve had the flu remain at higher risk of a heart attack or stroke.
It’s not clear exactly why vaccination rates among those over age 65 are slipping, although some believe that the flu shot is less effective in that population. Medicare typically covers the cost of the shots.
Not getting a flu vaccine could prove a costly mistake. During the 2014-2015 flu season, more than 750,000 older adults were hospitalized as a result of the flu. A 2012 study found that those hospitalized for a flu-related illness had to pay nearly $4,000 in out-of-pocket costs.
“Vaccination not only reduces the change that older adults will get the flu, it can help keep them out of the hospital by reducing the severity of the infection and related complications if they get the flu,” William Schaffner, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases said in a statement.