WASHINGTON — With the holiday season fast approaching, many older Americans are risking their health and the health of those around them by skipping their annual flu shot. A new AARP survey released today shows about half of people 50-plus didn’t get an influenza vaccination last year, leaving themselves and their loved ones at higher risk for the virus and its complications.
“The vaccine shortages are over, and older Americans need to get back in the habit of getting annual flu shots,” said Dr. Byron Thames, a member of AARP’s Board of Directors. “In recent years, we were warned to ration shots and save them for only the most at-risk people. Now that we have a full supply of vaccine, we all need to get our flu shots.”
While 38 percent of those who reported not getting a shot in 2006 said they believed they didn’t need one, many were also concerned about the side effects. More than 20 percent believed they could get the flu from the vaccine, did not trust the safety of the vaccine or were concerned with other possible side effects.
“Flu shots are safe; skipping the shot is not,” Dr. Thames added. “Unfortunately, the urban legend of getting the flu from the vaccine lives on. We’re here to tell people that a little pinch on the arm is better than a week in bed, or a trip to the hospital.”
AARP is also reminding all caregivers to get a flu shot this season. The survey found one in four people 50-plus provided care for a child, grandchild or older loved one at some point in the past year. Flu shots are recommended for this group to protect not only the recipient, but also those for whom they care.
“It builds a cocoon of protection,” said Dr. Thames. “Even those who don’t get a flu shot receive some benefit when those around them are vaccinated.”
“Not only do many older Americans not recognize the importance of influenza vaccination, but they don’t appreciate that getting vaccinated well into the New Year will help protect them and those they love from this serious illness,” said Dr. William Schaffner, Vice President, National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID). “NFID supports AARP’s efforts to increase vaccination rates among this age group and urges older Americans to seek vaccination throughout the winter months.”
AARP has more information about flu vaccines available on AARP.org. For a full copy of the survey, visit http://www.aarp.org/research/health/prevention/flu_pneumonia.html.
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.