Nov. 4, 2015
Did you know your
flu shot protects more than just you? A new study says when younger adults get
vaccinated, older people suffer fewer cases of flu and its potentially
life-threatening complications. Texas Medical Association (TMA) physicians urge
Texas adults to get vaccinated now to protect yourself and those around you.
“We call this herd
immunity,” said Wesley W. Stafford, MD, chair of TMA’s Council on Science and
Public Health. “When a large portion of a population gets vaccinated, it
protects those who can’t be vaccinated against disease or those who are most
Dr. Stafford, an
allergist-immunologist in Corpus Christi, said health experts have known about
herd immunity for years, but a recent nationwide study showed just how
important that can be. The study showed that when a third of younger adults (or
31 percent) in a community get vaccinated for the flu, the rate of flu and
related illnesses drops by 21 percent among people over age
The study, which appeared in the Sept. 10 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases,
looked at data from 3.3 million Medicare beneficiaries between 2002 and 2010. Medicare is the government health
insurance coverage for seniors and people with disabilities.
The elderly are
among the worst hit with flu-related illness. According to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, between 50 percent
and 70 percent of hospitalizations from flu-related illness, such as pneumonia (lung
infection), are in people who are over age 65. Most (80-90 percent) flu-related deaths are amongthe elderly.
everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccination every year to
protect themselves. Dr. Stafford says now is the time to get the shot for
protection throughout the entire flu season, which can last from now through
In addition to the
elderly, flu vaccination is especially important for other at-risk populations:
young children (5 years and younger), pregnant women, and people who have
chronic health conditions such as asthma and heart disease. A bonus for pregnant
women who get vaccinated: The vaccine protects not only the mother but also her
unborn baby. The baby remains protected by the mother’s immunity until he or
she is about 6 months of age.
vaccine options are available now in addition to the standard flu shot, including a high-dose shot that for people 65 years and older provides
better protection against the flu, an intradermal vaccine that uses a much
smaller needle injected into the skin instead of muscle, and the nasal-spray
vaccine for healthy people aged 2 to 49 years who
do not have asthma and are not pregnant. Physicians suggest you talk with your
doctor about which vaccine is right for you.
“The flu vaccine
is the best defense against getting the flu,” said Dr. Stafford. “It’s a safe
and effective way to protect yourself and those around you.”
TMA has produced a flu
fact sheet and a flu
facts infographic, both in English and Spanish.
To learn where flu shots are
available and other flu information, visit the Texas Department of State Health
or visit www.flu.gov.
TMA actively works to improve vaccination rates
in Texas through its Be
Wise — ImmunizeSM program. Be Wise works with local communities
to give free and low-cost shots to Texans, and educate people about the
importance of vaccination. More than 300,000 shots have been given to Texas
children, adolescents, and adults through the Be Wise program since 2004.
TMA is the largest
state medical society in the nation, representing more than 48,000 physician
and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 110 component
county medical societies around the state. TMA’s key objective since 1853 is to
improve the health of all Texans.
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Be Wise – Immunize is a service
mark of the Texas Medical Association.
Annear (512) 370-1381; cell: (512) 656-7320; email: brent.annear[at]texmed[dot]org
Marcus Cooper (512) 370-1382; cell: (512) 650-5336; email: marcus.cooper[at]texmed[dot]org
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