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An estimated 36,000 people die from the flu or complications of the flu each year, most of these deaths occurring in senior citizens. Because seniors’ immune systems begin to weaken at the age of 65, they are at a much higher risk for contracting the sickness. The CDC estimates that 200,000 people a year will be hospitalized for the flu, and disproportionately it is the elderly who this affects.

There are two options for the vaccine for senior citizens: the traditional vaccine that is administered to anyone who gets it, or — the choice I would recommend as long as given the “okay” by the doctor — is the stronger strain of the vaccination, designated for those over 65 to trigger a stronger immune response to flu.

As mentioned before, many seniors do not just die from the flu alone, but complications of the illness. Those with a history of heart problems, chronic lung disease, diabetes, or renal failure are more likely to have complications with the flu and should take extra precautions against contracting it. The most common complication associated with the flu is pneumonia, which leads to the most deaths and hospitalizations. Arming seniors with the pneumococcal vaccination is the best protection against this, even paired with the flu vaccine, just to be safe.

Not getting the flu shot, which in recent years has been made so convenient and accessible – and it is always covered by MediCare – is a risk too big to take with senior citizens. The vaccine can reduce the risk of illnesses and complications by 60 percent and reduces the incidence of flu deaths by 90 percent in seniors. Most importantly, getting your loved ones vaccinated offers the peace of mind of knowing that they will not suffer or be exposed to an array of illnesses and complications that could  prove fatal this season.

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