Defending Older Adults from the Flu


Defending Older Adults from the Flu

As we age, our immune system becomes weaker, making us more susceptible to various illnesses. One such illness that poses a significant threat to older adults is the flu (influenza). The flu is a viral infection of the respiratory tract that spreads easily and quickly from person to person. One in four New Zealanders catch flu each year. It can be anywhere, easy to catch, and is not a mere common cold—it can cause severe symptoms and lead to serious complications, hospitalisation, or even death. The flu virus is constantly changing, that's why it's important, especially for those 65 years and older, to get a flu shot every year. The flu vaccine is the best way to protect individuals from getting sick and passing the virus onto others.

Understanding the dangers of the Flu for older adults

The flu is more than just a seasonal inconvenience—it can be life-threatening, especially for older adults. Unlike a common cold, the flu can cause sudden and severe symptoms, such as fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, and shortness of breath. It can leave a person bedridden for weeks and even lead to hospitalisation or death. Older adults, aged 65 and over, are particularly vulnerable to the flu and its complications. They are more likely to have other health conditions like diabetes, which further increases their risk. The majority of flu-related deaths and hospitalisations occur in this age group. Therefore, it is crucial for older adults to take preventive measures and get vaccinated against the flu.

How the Flu spreads and its impact on older adults

The flu is highly contagious and spreads mainly through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. It can also spread by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching the nose, mouth, or eyes. What makes the flu particularly dangerous for older adults is their weakened immune system and the presence of underlying health conditions. As we age, our immune defenses become less effective, making it harder to fight off infections like the flu. Additionally, older adults are more likely to have chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease, which further increase their susceptibility to complications from the flu. Therefore, it is crucial for older adults to understand the risks and take preventive measures by getting vaccinated.

The effectiveness of the Flu vaccine for older adults

The flu vaccine is a safe and effective way to reduce the risk of getting the flu and experiencing severe illness if infected. The flu shot is made from an inactivated virus that can't transmit infection; people cannot catch the flu from the vaccine. While the effectiveness of the flu vaccine can vary from year to year, it has been shown to lower the risk of flu illness and related complications in older adults. Even if a vaccinated person still gets the flu, the vaccine can help reduce the severity and duration of the illness. Moreover, studies have linked flu vaccination to fewer hospitalisations among people with chronic health conditions. By getting vaccinated every year, older adults can ensure they have the best possible protection against the flu and its potentially devastating consequences, and reducing the risk of spreading it to others.

Where and how to get vaccinated

Getting vaccinated against the flu is easy and accessible for older adults in Auckland. The flu vaccine is free for people aged 65 years or over, and for Māori and Pacific people 55 years or over. It's available through various healthcare providers, including doctors, nurses, and pharmacies. Remember, the flu vaccine needs to be taken annually because the flu virus strains change each season.

Would you like to help develop a potential new vaccine to prevent the flu?

Optimal Clinical Trials are looking for research study volunteers aged 65 or over who have not had the flu vaccine in the last 6 months. The study will compare a potential new Pfizer mRNA flu vaccine to a traditional approved vaccine to see which is more effective. While flu vaccines exist, new ones are needed because the flu virus is constantly changing. 

Compensation of $300 is available for each visit to our clinic. By participating, you could help develop a potential new flu vaccine that can affect the quality of life for older people and future generations.

To learn more or to volunteer for this study, click here, or on the button below.