Influenza vaccinations and the elderlyBy Dr. Veita Bland / September 8, 2017
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Labor Day has come and gone. We are now unofficially done with summer and our thoughts drift off into autumn. When we think of autumn I am particularly concerned about the change in the fall weather and the arrival of the cold and flu season. We dodged a bullet last winter and had a very mild winter when we looked at the flu. It did hit but it was much later and milder.
Oh, how I wish my crystal ball would work so I could predict what this flu season was going to be like. I understand that even the crystal balls at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) are unable to predict this type of information.
As you know the vaccine for the flu is composed each year by the experts who look at what viruses are circulating. It is not an exact science but most of the time they do a pretty good job.
The CDC recommends that those who are over six months of age receive a flu vaccine. The purpose of the vaccine is to protect us all. This is especially so for those who are immunocompromised. This would also include those with chronic diseases such as diabetes, those on chemotherapy , lung disease, the young and the elderly in particular. The young are vulnerable basically because their immune system has not developed due to under exposure. We worry about the elderly because as all of us age the immune system starts to wane a bit, and not respond to challenges as well.
Traditionally the flu virus is grown in eggs and purified to make the vaccine. This year we have several different sources for the flu vaccine. A new method that uses DNA technology has been developed. It has been shown to be more effective in preventing the flu in those 50 years and older. To this end some experts are saying it is a thoughtful alternative to the regular flu vaccines for older adults.
Then there is the high dose inactivated flu vaccine that is grown in the eggs. Many specialists are recommending this for people 65 years of age or older. It has been shown to be better than the standard dose of the flu vaccine. Hopefully as you all ponder getting the flu vaccine, if you are older or have chronic illness, know that choices are around. Indeed choices are good to have but what choice should be made? This may be something you may want to discuss with your pharmacist and or healthcare provider to see what option is best for you.
Dr. Veita Bland is a board certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on North Carolina A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wednesdays. Email Dr. Bland at firstname.lastname@example.org.