Last flu season was rough. Nationwide, there were more than 30,000 flu-related hospitalizations. Adults ages 65 and older were four times as likely as the general population to end up in the hospital due to complications of the flu.
Even some people who had their flu shots got sick last year. Yet getting the flu vaccine is still crucial. Although it can’t prevent every case of the flu, it’s your best protection. And if you do get sick, your symptoms may be milder.
How the Flu Vaccine Works
Flu viruses occur in many varieties. Every year, scientists predict which flu viruses will be most common in the coming months. Then they make a vaccine targeting three or four of those viruses.
The scientists’ predictions turn out to be more accurate in some years than in others. What happens if the viruses in the vaccine and those going around a few months later aren’t a perfect match? The vaccine can still be helpful. That’s because a vaccine targeting one virus may offer at least some protection against similar viruses.
Why You Need the Vaccine
If you’re an expectant mother, getting a flu shot may be especially important. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that pregnant moms who were vaccinated cut their newborn’s chance of getting the flu by 63 percent. That’s important because flu vaccines are recommended only for infants older than age 6 months. And babies younger than 6 months who catch the flu are more likely to develop complications than older ones.
It’s also important to protect yourself from the flu as you age. Older adults are at a higher risk for hospitalizations from the flu and flu-related deaths.
Be sure to get your flu shot—ideally, in the fall before flu season starts. Often, the vaccine will keep the flu away. But if you do get sick, it could make the difference between a minor issue and a life-threatening illness.