Receiving Recommended Vaccines Against Influenza, Pneumococcal Disease Even More Critical for the Health and Safety of Older Adults, Who Remain at High Risk for COVID-19
The New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) is encouraging older New Yorkers to make sure they are up to date with all recommended immunizations, including those that provide protection against respiratory illnesses such as influenza and pneumococcal disease. Routine vaccination is an essential preventive care service that should not be delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Staying healthy during this pandemic is critical, particularly for older adults, who are at greater risk for COVID-19,” said NYSOFA Acting Director Greg Olsen. “Our immune systems are more easily compromised as we age, and older adults, especially those with chronic health conditions, have an increased risk of becoming seriously ill. In addition to following all safety and social distancing protocols, getting recommended vaccinations, especially those that guard against respiratory illnesses such as influenza and pneumococcal disease, are vital to protect the health and wellbeing of older adults and caregivers.”
August is National Immunization Awareness Month. Older adults should consult with their healthcare provider to ensure that vaccinations and other preventive services are up to date. “Flu season” in the United States can begin as early as October and last as late as May. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone six months of age and older, particularly those at greater risk, get their annual flu vaccine by the end of October. People 65 years and older should also be up to date with the pneumococcal vaccination to protect against pneumococcal diseases, such as pneumonia, meningitis, and bloodstream infections.
While these vaccines do not specifically protect against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, they are highly recommended to maintain overall health and protect against other respiratory illnesses.
The CDC recommends the following actions for older adults:
- Get your annual flu shot. This is particularly important for those at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, including adults age 65 years and older, residents in a nursing home or long-term care facility, and persons of all ages with certain underlying medical conditions. High-dose flu shots are available for adults age 65 and older.
- Get pneumococcal vaccines. People who 65 years and older should also be up to date with pneumococcal vaccination to protect against pneumonia, meningitis, and bloodstream infections.
- Practice good health and safety habits, including wearing a mask in public, practicing social distancing by keeping at least six (6) feet of distance between yourself and others, even when outdoors; avoiding close contact such as shaking hands or hugging; washing hands often or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol when soap and water are not available; and avoiding unnecessary contact with surfaces that are often touched, such as doorknobs and handrails.
- Schedule your annual wellness visit. Older adults should contact their healthcare provider to schedule an annual checkup. Those who have had Medicare Part B (medical insurance) for longer than 12 months are eligible for a yearly wellness visit at low or no cost to develop or update a personalized plan to help prevent or manage disease and disabilities based on their current health and risk factors.
- People with COVID-19 have reported a wide range of symptoms from mild to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus and may include but are not limited to: fever or chills; cough; shortness of breath or difficulty breathing; fatigue; muscle or body aches; headache; new loss of taste or smell; sore throat; congestion or runny nose; nausea or vomiting; and/or diarrhea, among others.
- Influenza (flu) can cause mild to severe illness. The flu is different from a cold, and usually comes on suddenly. Symptoms may include possible fever or feeling feverish/chills; cough; sore throat; runny or stuffy nose; muscle or body aches; headache; and/or fatigue.
Resources for older adults and caregivers:
Medicare.gov: Yearly wellness visits