Special flu vaccine designed to boost immune response in seniors

Most baby boomers are now seniors.

That means there are a lot of older folks here in the Triangle and across the nation, and we all know that those older than 65 are at an especially high risk of being hospitalized if they contract the novel coronavirus.

That's because immune systems deteriorate as people age.

"Our immune systems change over time. And we are more sensitive and at risk for getting very sick with viral illnesses," Dr. Maureen Dale told ABC11.

Dale is a geriatric specialist with UNC Healthcare, who said it is even more important during the pandemic for seniors to get flu shots.

"Even though we don't have a COVID-19 vaccine yet, there are other respiratory viruses, particularly the flu, that we can protect ourselves from," Dale said.

Depending on how senior you are, there are specially designed flu vaccinations to help overcome immune deficiencies.

"There are several different flu shots that are available for patients over 65. And talking to your doctor about this is going to be important," Dale said, and she added that one of those vaccines specifically designed for those older than 65 is called Fluzone Quadrivalent Hi-Dose.

"This is a vaccine that has four times the amount of antigen or inactivated virus that is in the regular flu vaccine, and so can create a more potent immune response," Dale said.

Although everyone is being urged to get a flu shot in the midst of the pandemic to ensure hospitals aren't overwhelmed during a possible winter wave of COVID-19, it's especially important for seniors according to the CDC.

"Older patients are more at risk of needing hospitalization from flu illness during the flu season," Dale said. "And we are trying, obviously as our patients are, to avoid those hospitalizations."

Dale said it is never too late for anyone, not just seniors, to get a flu shot, and she is reminding people of two things:

1. Despite what you might have heard, a vaccine cannot give you the flu.

2. Getting the flu vaccine has never been more important than it is right now because getting it can not only help you, it can help all of us.
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