October brings the beginning of flu season, which will put up to 200,000 Americans in the hospital this year. But the flu is easily prevented with an inexpensive vaccination. AARP is urging all Americans 50-plus to get flu shots before the virus begins its annual spread.
"Vaccine shortages got a lot of people out of the habit of getting flu shots," said Dr. Byron Thames, a member of AARP's Board of Directors. "Now that we have plenty of vaccine, it's time for people 50-plus to get their shots. It's an easy and inexpensive way to take responsibility for your own health and for your loved ones," he said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report a record-setting vaccine supply for the 2007-2008 flu season, allowing all Americans at high risk for complications from the flu to get the necessary shot. While flu shots are still effective as late as January, those at risk are urged to get their shots now and prevent the virus before it strikes.
Dr. Thames also pointed to the critical need for caregivers to get vaccinated. "Many Baby Boomers are caring for their children, their grandchildren and even their parents. Getting a flu shot not only protects you, but also helps protect those you are caring for," he said.
Vaccination rates are too low, said Dr. Thames, particularly among 50 to 64-year-olds. "Only about a third of people in that group get vaccinated, even though they are at high risk for flu-related complications. Preventing the flu has huge implications: That little pinch in the arm can help save 36,000 lives this year," he said.
AARP found vaccination rates are even lower among older African Americans and Hispanics. A June 2007 study by AARP's Public Policy Institute shows 67 percent of white adults 65-plus reported receiving a flu shot, while only 45 percent of older African Americans and 55 percent of older Hispanics reported being vaccinated.
Prevention is a top priority for AARP, and the organization is using all of its resources to urge its 39 million members to get flu shots this season. Walgreens stores across the country are distributing AARP literature about the flu and flu shots. AARP.org includes important information about the virus and links to help people find vaccination clinics. The upcoming edition of AARP's bilingual magazine, Segunda Juventud, will also feature a story on influenza.
To get a full copy of AARP's report on racial and ethnic immunization disparities, or to request an interview, please contact AARP Media Relations at the number above.
AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates. We produce AARP The Magazine, published bimonthly; AARP Bulletin, our monthly newspaper; AARP Segunda Juventud, our bimonthly magazine in Spanish and English; NRTA Live & Learn, our quarterly newsletter for 50+ educators; and our website, AARP.org. AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.