By Jennifer Dunlay
The COVID-19 pandemic started just when flu season was winding down earlier this year. This fall and winter will be the first time we’ve had to fight two potentially deadly respiratory viruses at the same time both of which can have devastating health effects on older adults.
Compared with younger adults, adults over age 50 are more likely to have chronic medical conditions which put them at an increased risk of flu and COVID-19-related complications that can lead to hospitalization and even death.
That’s why this year it is more important than ever to get vaccinated for flu. When you get vaccinated, you reduce your risk of getting sick with flu and possibly being hospitalized or dying from flu.
Flu vaccines will not prevent COVID-19, but they will reduce the burden of flu illnesses on the health care system freeing up medical resources for the care of COVID-19 patients.
The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment (JCDHE) urges older adults to put on a mask and make their way to a doctor’s office, a pharmacy or the health department for a seasonal flu shot. When you arrive, take precautions such as staying 6 feet or more from other people and washing or sanitizing your hands after touching surfaces.
Adults over age 50 can ask for the Flublok® Quadrivalent vaccine which contains three times more active ingredients than all other quadrivalent vaccines, making it a great choice for older adults and those with compromised immune systems. Flublok® does not contain any preservatives, egg proteins, gelatin or latex giving adults who are sensitive to these ingredients another choice for flu protection.
Adults over age 65 can request the Fluzone® HighDose vaccine. This vaccine contains four times the antigen of the standard dose flu vaccine, the part of the vaccine that helps your body build up protection against flu viruses. The higher dose of antigen in the vaccine is intended to give older people a better immune response, and therefore, better protection against flu.
Flu shots are available at JCDHE’s walk-in immunizations clinic in Olathe (11875 S. Sunset Drive), Monday-Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Flu vaccines are covered by Medicare Part B and by most Medicare Advantage plans with no copay. The Flublok® Quadrivalent vaccine (supplies are limited) and the seasonal flu shot are covered by most health insurance plans with no copays for adults who are not on Medicare. Those without insurance will pay $30 for the seasonal flu shot or $50 for the Flublok® Quadrivalent vaccine.
Jennifer Dunlay is Risk Communicator at the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.