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Flu Shots: Answers to 5 Pressing Questions

An expert provides a primer and Judith Light offers the star power

Flu season is here, and especially if you’re 65 and older or you’re taking care of aging parents, it’s time to consider vaccines.

According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), the vast majority of flu-related hospitalizations and deaths occur in adults over 65. The flu is especially dangerous for the 86 percent of 65+ adults with chronic conditions.

Actress Judith Light, who is best known for her roles on One Life to Live and Who’s the Boss?, has joined NCOA to encourage flu shots. Check out her video and our Q&A below with the NCOA’s Albert Terrillion, who urges vaccinations for flu prevention.

(MORE: 9 Surprising Ways to Ward Off Cold and Flu)

Next Avenue: How is the flu shot different for people over 65?

Terrillion: As we get older, our immune system weakens. Generally, this means our bodies have a harder time fighting off disease. As a result, adults aged 65 and older are more likely to catch the flu and experience complications. That’s why the flu shot is important for this age group. Older adults have flu vaccine options — including the traditional standard-dose flu vaccine and a higher-dose vaccine, which was developed specifically for people aged 65 and older to improve the body’s production of antibody against the flu.

What’s the difference between the shot and the nasal spray?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the single best way to prevent the flu is to get an annual vaccination, which is recommended for everyone aged six months and older, with rare exception. The CDC recommends the use of the nasal spray vaccine for healthy children between the ages of two and eight, but it can be used on persons between age two and 49 unless they are pregnant or have some respiratory issues, such as asthma. You should talk with your doctor to determine the right method for you.

(MORE: Caregivers Need Flu Shots Too)

If I choose to get vaccinated, when should I do it?  

Now. It usually takes two to three weeks for the antibodies to be created from the vaccination.

What are the risks or side effects if I get a flu shot?

Ask your healthcare provider about side effects; usually there is some soreness at the sight of injection, but this usually subsides in a day or two.

(MORE: It’s Worth a Shot to Foil the Flu Bug)

Why do I have to get a flu shot every year?

You need to get vaccinated every year because the flu strains that circulate typically change each year. Even when there is no change to the flu strains included in the vaccine, immunity to flu viruses wane after a year, making annual vaccination important. For more information on the flu season and the importance of vaccination, you can visit our website at www.ncoa.org/flu.

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