EDITORIAL NOTE: Several readers suggested I replace the far right photo in the banner with a screen grab from the video interview I posted on Saturday. I thought that was a pretty good idea, so I did it. See above.
God knows my memory could be off but I'm guessing I began getting an annual flu shot sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Before then, a week home in bed with the flu was a winter ritual.
Only once in the 30 to 40 years I've taken the vaccine, did I forget to do it – but I will never forget the flu I suffered that year, and I do mean suffered.
It happened about 15 years ago, so let's say I was age 60 or so and I was in bed for two full weeks with all the awful symptoms – fever, muscle aches, headache, chills, sweating, fuzzyheadedness, etc. and it took a month after that before I was at full capacity again.
During those two weeks, I had little sense of time passing, just horrible discomfort and then, finally, the pain and fog lifted. I was well and functional again. But it has puzzled me ever since that in the kitchen that day I found two empty gallon jugs of water.
I had never bought water. There is no need in New York City which regularly wins awards for the best tap water in the United States. Yet there they were, those two empty jugs.
Had I gone to the corner bodega to buy them? If so, why? I didn't remember then, I don't remember now and I don't recall anyone visiting me who might have brought them although there is nothing to say those things didn't happen. It's not a big deal; just one of the small mysteries of life but forever attached to the word “flu” for me.
So here we are at the beginning of the 2017/18 flu season and even though people 65 and older are at high risk for the flu itself and at greater risk for preventable complications than younger adults, nearly one-third of those between the ages of 65 and 74 skipped the flu shot last year.
A couple of other worthwhile statistics: 90 percent of flu-related deaths occur in people 65 and older as do 60 percent of flu-related hospitalizations.
Almost all elders should get a flu shot each year and there is a special, high dose vaccine for old people called Fluad. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC),
”The 'high dose vaccine' is designed specifically for people 65 and older and contains 4 times the amount of antigen as the regular flu shot. It is associated with a stronger immune response following vaccination (higher antibody production).
“Results from a clinical trial of more than 30,000 participants showed that adults 65 years and older who received the high dose vaccine had 24% fewer influenza infections as compared to those who received the standard dose flu vaccine.”
The vaccine is a good health investment and in fact, for most us requires no monetary investment. For those with original Medicare, Part B covers the shot with no copay - that is, free. If you have Medicare Advantage, check with your insurer.
If you have an allergy to eggs, you should consult with your physician about the flu vaccine and here's something new I learned recently: if you are receiving chemotherapy, you should talk with your physician before getting the shot. With approval from my doctor, I got mine, Fluad, two weeks ago, about three weeks before my chemo begins.
In my old age, a bad cold feels too much like the flu so I don't want to even imagine what a flu would feel like to me nowadays.
Oh, and here is one more reason to get the flu shot. It is estimated that people 65 and older who skip the flu immunization increase U.S. health care costs by $4.8 billion a year.
So you can contribute to Medicare's solvency too when you get a flu shot.
Here is the CDC's extensive website section on the flu.