Facts about flu shots
Influenza, or the flu, can lead to pneumonia and other life-threatening complications. About 36,000 Americans—most ages 65 and older—die each year from the flu, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
If you’re an adult over 50, the CDC recommends getting an annual flu shot. You may also need one if you’re between 19 and 49 and have certain risk factors—for example, if you have asthma, type 2 diabetes or another chronic health condition, or if you care for someone at high risk.
Although healthy habits like exercising and eating well can enhance your immune system, getting vaccinated reduces your chances of catching the flu by up to 80 percent.
Two more shots to think about
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved two new vaccines, both considered medical breakthroughs:
- Shingles vaccine. Zostavax is now available for people ages 60 and older to reduce the risk of shingles, a disease caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox.
- Cervical cancer vaccine. Gardasil protects against four types of human papillomavirus, a common virus known to cause cervical cancer. The vaccine is approved for females ages 9 to 26.
If you think vaccinations are kid stuff, get ready to roll up your sleeve. The need to get immunized—in some cases, re-immunized—lasts a lifetime. In fact, as you age, you become more susceptible to serious diseases caused by common infections, such as flu and pneumonia. What’s more, newer vaccines might not have been available when you were a child. And even if you’ve already been vaccinated, immunity can begin to fade over time.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides recommendations for people ages 19 and older. Ask your healthcare provider about your risk factors and specific needs. He or she will consider your health, occupation and lifestyle to determine the vaccinations you need. For example, healthcare workers or people traveling to certain countries may need specific immunizations. Your provider may recommend a particular shot if you can’t remember or can’t find proof you’ve already been immunized.