Busting the Dangerous Myths about Flu Shots and Seniors

October 1, 2018

Flu shot myths often keep people from being vaccinated. For older adults, that can be especially dangerous. Here’s what you should know.

Every fall, old flu shot myths—and a few new ones—begin to make the rounds. Recent false social media posts have gone as far as to say flu shots are linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease among older adults! It’s misinformation like this that may prevent seniors from getting a flu shot.

While younger, healthy adults may be able to fight off the virus, older adults who have a chronic health condition or a weakened immune system might not. For seniors, the flu can be deadly. During a typical flu season, seniors account for 70 to 85 percent of flu-related deaths, and 50 to 70 percent of hospitalizations for influenza.

Let’s bust a few more common myths about flu shots.

Protecting Seniors from the Flu: Common Flu Shots Myths

Myth #1: Flu shots contain an active flu virus

People of all ages have the misperception that the flu shot works by exposing you to a small dose of the flu. This persistent myth says that by being exposed to a small dose of flu, you build your immunity against it.

For older adults trying to stay healthy, the idea of being exposed to even a minor case of the flu may be frightening. That’s why it’s important to help seniors understand that this is a myth. An influenza vaccine contains only an inactive strain of the flu. You can’t get the flu from the flu shot.

Myth #2: Only seniors and children need a flu shot

This myth can put older adults at risk of getting the flu. While young adults and healthy middle-aged people might not think they need a flu shot, it’s a measure that helps prevent them from spreading the flu.

Adult children of an aging parent and family caregivers especially need to protect themselves against the flu. They can unwittingly spread the virus to immune-compromised seniors without even being aware they have it.

Myth #3: If you get a flu shot too early, you won’t be protected all season

Some adults delay getting vaccinated until mid-winter when the flu begins to make an appearance. Many do so because they believe receiving the vaccine too early will prevent them from being protected all flu season.

The truth is, a flu shot typically offers protection for a whole year. The immunity doesn’t wear off in a month or two. You are better off getting the vaccine early before the flu begins to make its way around town.

Myth #4: Because the flu shot doesn’t change much, you don’t need it every year

Each new flu season heralds a new strain of the flu. While some years might be similar, they are rarely ever the same. Researchers adapt vaccines to target those changes so people are protected against the strains expected to be bad that season.

Help Seniors Get Accurate Information on Flu Shots

In an average flu season, 200,000 people are hospitalized for the flu, and 36,000 people die from it. Older adults account for the majority of these. You can help protect the seniors in your life by educating them on the importance of the flu vaccine and encouraging them to be vaccinated.

Interested in more information about health and well-being for older adults? Visit “Aging Well” on the Legacy Senior Living blog. We share the latest news and research throughout the month on living an active, independent life as you grow older.