The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released its annual report on healthy aging, and the news is mostly good. Seniors met all the target scores related to health behaviors, such as taking medication for high blood pressure. The bad news, however, is that not enough seniors are being vaccinated for the potentially fatal conditions of influenza and pneumonia.
According to the CDC’s report, “The State of Aging and Health in America 2013,” as of 2010, about 68 percent of seniors had received a pneumonia vaccine at some point in their lives, and 67 percent had received a flu vaccination in the previous year. Those numbers may sound satisfactory to laymen, but they fall far short of the target rate of 90 percent for both vaccines.
Previous experience is the best predictor of whether a senior will receive the flu and pneumonia vaccinations. Seniors are more likely to get a flu shot if they have gotten it in previous years, and they are more likely to get the pneumonia vaccine if they have gotten a flu shot in the past.
Unfortunately, flu and pneumonia represent the seventh leading cause of death among Americans age 65 or older. In fact, about 90 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths in the United States each year occur among seniors age 65 or older.
But here’s a critical question – how effective are these vaccinations? The CDC itself reported in February that this past winter’s influenza vaccine was effective for only 9 percent of seniors 65 and older. And the flu-related death rate for seniors reached extremely high levels this year, making it the worst season since the CDC began tracking seniors’ flu-related death rate in 2005.
CDC officials have stressed the fact that the flu shot’s effectiveness has varied from year to year, so the negative findings should not be seen as discrediting the need for the vaccine. If you are disenchanted with vaccines, however, consider trying these natural remedies for the flu. While our immune defenses may weaken with age, we can still fight the good fight to stay healthy and strong.