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Should Older Adults Wait to Get a Flu Shot?

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I was planning to get my flu shot this week. I see the signs (advertisements) every time I visit the supermarket or drug store. About two weeks ago my wife received a mailer from Wegmans Pharmacy saying “It’s time to get your flu shot.”

So, I figured this must be the right time to get this annual ritual over with. Right?

But, Wait!  This weekend there was a piece on NPR’s Weekend Edition that suggests that “Older People Might Consider Waiting A Bit Longer ToGet Flu Shot.” It seems that immunologist Laura Haynes suggests people over 65 wait until Halloween to get their flu shots, to make sure the immunity lasts through the flu season.

According to Dr. Haynes, a professor of immunology with the University of Connecticut Center on Aging: “the best time for most people to get the flu vaccine would be in October. If you’re a little bit older and over 65, I would say between Halloween and Thanksgiving.” The reason is that our older immune response wanes more quickly than when we were younger. So, we older adults may want to wait a little longer to get our shot so that we stay protected through the worst of the flu season (which happens from January to April).

Even though the flu vaccine will not necessarily keep you from getting sick, older adults should get the shot since it has been shown that it can keep us from getting sick enough to avoid having to go to a hospital. Flu is a serious disease responsible for many deaths each year, particularly among older adults and young children. So most seniors should be sure to get the shot. Later may be best, but early is better than never. Of course, checking with your doctor is a good idea, especially if you have any questions or concerns.

As with most things involving drugs, the evidence is uncertain and it’s unclear how long the immunity imparted by the vaccine lasts for older adults. Still, the idea of waiting until we are closer to actual flu season makes a lot of sense to me.

So, my wife and I are going to delay getting our shots this year, and it’s not procrastination. Happy Halloween!

Here is a link to the NPR story and a related article from Julie Appleby of Kaiser Health News. http://tinyurl.com/z2eyacz

For a different point of view see: When should I get my flu shot?   http://tinyurl.com/hmw8yqy