How effective is the flu vaccine?
How well the flu vaccine works (or its ability to prevent flu illness) can range widely from season to season. The vaccine’s effectiveness also can vary depending on who is being vaccinated. At least two factors play an important role in determining the likelihood that flu vaccine will protect a person from flu illness: 1) characteristics of the person being vaccinated (such as their age and health), and 2) the similarity or “match” between the flu viruses the flu vaccine is designed to protect against and the flu viruses spreading in the community. During years when the flu vaccine is not well matched to circulating viruses, it’s possible that no benefit from flu vaccination may be observed. During years when there is a good match between the flu vaccine and circulating viruses, it’s possible to measure substantial benefits from vaccination in terms of preventing flu illness. However, even during years when the vaccine match is very good, the benefits of vaccination will vary across the population, depending on characteristics of the person being vaccinated and even, potentially, which vaccine was used.
Each season researchers try to determine how well flu vaccines work to regularly assess and confirm the value of flu vaccination as a public health intervention. Study results about how well a flu vaccine works can vary based on study design, outcome(s) measured, population studied and the season in which the flu vaccine was studied. These differences can make it difficult to compare one study’s results with another’s.
While determining how well a flu vaccine works is challenging, in general, recent studies have supported the conclusion that flu vaccination benefits public health, especially when the flu vaccine is well matched to circulating flu viruses.
Is the flu vaccine effective against all types of flu and cold viruses?
Seasonal flu vaccines are designed to protect against infection and illness caused by the flu viruses research indicates will be most common during the flu season. “Trivalent” flu vaccines are formulated to protect against three flu viruses, and “quadrivalent” flu vaccines protect against four flu viruses. Flu vaccines do NOT protect against infection and illness caused by other viruses that can also cause flu-like symptoms. There are many other viruses besides flu viruses that can result in flu-like illness* (also known as influenza-like illness or “ILI”) that spread during the flu season.
Does the flu vaccine work the same for everyone?
No. While the flu vaccine is the single best way to prevent the flu, protection can vary widely depending on who is being vaccinated (in addition to how well matched the flu vaccine is with circulating viruses). In general, the flu vaccine works best among healthy adults and older children. Some older people and people with certain chronic illnesses might develop less immunity than healthy children and adults after vaccination. However, even for these people, the flu vaccine still may provide some protection.
How effective is the flu vaccine in the elderly?
Older people with weaker immune systems often have a lower protective immune response after flu vaccination compared to younger, healthier people. This can result in lower vaccine effectiveness in these people.
Because your immune system weakens as you age, adults age 65 years and older are more susceptible to the flu. It is important all seniors get the flu vaccine.
- You have two options for vaccination: the regular dose flu shot and the high-dose shot that results in a stronger immune response. Talk to your health care provider to decide which one is right for you.
- If you have flu-like symptoms, contact your health care provider immediately.
- Since you are at high risk for flu-related complications, your doctor may prescribe antiviral medications if you get the flu.
Why does being older than 65 put me at higher risk for getting the flu?
As you age, your immune system weakens. This weakening makes seniors—adults 65 years and older— more susceptible to the flu. For seniors, the seasonal flu can be very serious, even deadly. Ninety percent of flu-related deaths and more than half of flu-related hospitalizations occur in people age 65 and older.
How can I protect myself from the flu?
Get the flu vaccine as soon as it is available in your area. Getting the flu vaccine protects you and prevents you from spreading the flu to your spouse, children, or grandchildren.
You have two options for vaccination—the regular dose flu shot and the higher-dose flu shot designed specifically for people 65 and older. Both vaccines protect against the same three flu viruses. The higher-dose vaccine should result in a stronger immune response. Talk to your health care provider about which vaccine is right for you.
In addition to getting the flu vaccine, you should follow our everyday steps to keep yourself healthy this flu season.
Because you are at an increased risk of getting pneumonia, a complication of the flu, talk to your health care provider about the pneumococcal vaccine. The pneumococcal vaccine will protect you against pneumonia.
Will Medicare cover my flu vaccine?
Yes, Medicare will cover the flu vaccine once every flu season.
Two elderly women were out driving in a large car, neither one could hardly see over the dashboard. As they were cruising along, they came to an intersection. The stoplight was red but they went on through. The woman in the passenger seat thought to herself, “I must be losing it. I could have sworn we just went through a red light!” After a few more minutes they came to another intersection, the light was red, and again they went right through. This time, the passenger was almost sure that the light had been red, but was also concerned that she might be seeing things. She was getting nervous and decided to pay very close attention. At the next intersection, sure enough, the light was definitely red and they went right through it. She turned to the other woman and said, “Mildred! Did you know we just ran through three red lights in a row? You could have killed us!” Mildred turned to her and said, “Oh My Gosh!! Am I driving?”
In 2010, falls among older adults cost the U.S. health care system $30 billion in direct medical costs, when adjusted for inflation.1 With the population aging, both the number of falls and the costs to treat fall injuries are likely to increase.
How big is the problem?
- One in three adults aged 65 and older falls each year.2 Of those who fall, 20% to 30% suffer moderate to severe injuries that make it hard for them to get around or live independently, and increase their risk of early death.
- Older adults are hospitalized for fall-related injuries five times more often than they are for injuries from other causes.
- In 2011, emergency departments treated 2.4 million nonfatal fall injuries among older adults; more than 689,000 of these patients had to be hospitalized.
How are costs calculated?
The costs of fall-related injuries are often shown in terms of direct costs.
- Direct costs are what patients and insurance companies pay for treating fall-related injuries. These costs include fees for hospital and nursing home care, doctors and other professional services, rehabilitation, community-based services, use of medical equipment, prescription drugs, changes made to the home, and insurance processing.
- Direct costs do not account for the long-term effects of these injuries such as disability, dependence on others, lost time from work and household duties, and reduced quality of life.
How costly are fall-related injuries among older adults?
- In 2010, the total direct medical costs of fall injuries for people 65 and older, adjusted for inflation, was $30 billion.
- By 2020, the annual direct and indirect cost of fall injuries is expected to reach $54.9 billion (in 2007 dollars).
- Among community-dwelling older adults, fall-related injury is one of the 20 most expensive medical conditions.
- In 2002, about 22% of community-dwelling seniors reported having fallen in the previous year. Medicare costs per fall averaged between $9,113 and $13,507.8
- Among community-dwelling seniors treated for fall injuries, 65% of direct medical costs were for inpatient hospitalizations; 10% each for medical office visits and home health care, 8% for hospital outpatient visits, 7% for emergency room visits, and 1% each for prescription drugs and dental visits. About 78% of these costs were reimbursed by Medicare.
- In a 1998 study of people age 72 and older, the average health care cost of a fall injury totaled $19,440, which included hospital, nursing home, emergency room, and home health care, but not doctors’ services.
How do these costs break down?
Age and sex
- The costs of fall injuries increase rapidly with age.
- Costs of both fatal and nonfatal falls are higher for women than for men.
- In 2000, medical costs for women, who comprised 58% of older adults, were two to three times higher than the costs for men.
Type of injury and treatment setting
- In 2000, 78% of fall deaths, and 79% of total costs, were due to traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and injuries to the lower extremities.
- Injuries to internal organs were responsible for 28% of fall deaths and accounted for 29% of costs.
- Fractures were both the most common and most costly nonfatal injuries. Just over one-third of nonfatal injuries were fractures, but these accounted for 61% of total nonfatal costs—or $12 billion.
- Hospitalizations accounted for nearly two-thirds of the costs of nonfatal fall injuries and emergency department treatment accounted for 20%.
- On average, the hospitalization cost for a fall injury is $17,500.10
- Hip fractures are the most serious and costly fall-related fracture. Hospitalization costs account for 44% of the direct medical costs for hip fractures.
Most people don’t realize that the elderly deal with the factor of
financial struggle. People think the elderly are rich and have lots of money
saved up and go on lots of fancy trips. The reality is that the more health
issues you have as you age, the more money you will need for the treatments and
medications. Also many elders live pay check to pay check from Social Security.
The checks are not a lot, so if you haven’t saved much of your income when you
were working, affording care will be more difficult. The elderly take a big hit with that, because they need their medications and most have to pay out of pocket if Medicare doesn’t cover the whole cost. Also, elders take a hit from problems such as neglect, forgetfulness and falling prey to swindlers. So we as young folks need to be on the lookout and protect the aging population. Not only are finances difficult for the elderly, but finding affordable housing is a problem as well.
Healthcare costs are a big worry amongst the elderly population. With
the cost rising, many won’t be able to afford to keep it or to even get it.
More than 75 percent of Medicare-eligible households spent close to $10,000 out
of pocket on health care. The costs don’t stop there with increasing,
and will continue to increase with the more elderly people who need it. Also, expenses
are varied based on the type of medication an elder needs. Some have rare
illnesses that require more tests and treatments require more money. Illnesses
like cancer and dementia cost the most money, because it is more common for the
aging population. Some elderly people don’t go to the doctors or seek treatment
because they just can’t afford it. If the cost keeps rising, then the death
toll will also rise, because less people will have treatment that could save
their lives. Health is very important thing to have. If you don’t have good health, everything else means nothing. You aren’t yourself when you don’t feel well. There are so many people who don’t have health care and are suffering to make payments. With more and more elderly people living longer, the government needs to protect Medicare so that it will be around for generations to come.