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Donna Lazorik Pic Posted by Donna Lazorik, RN, MS. Donna is the Immunization Coordinator in the Division of Epidemiology and Immunization at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

If you're 65 and older, the flu prevention message for you this year is simple: Get a flu shot as soon as you can. 

Everyone 6 months and older is recommended to get a flu vaccine. But as a person 65 or older, health officials urge you in particular to get a flu shot right away. Anyone can get the flu, but some people are at greater risk for serious flu-related complications, like pneumonia, that can lead to hospitalization and even death. This is especially true for adults 65 and older, because the body's ability to fight illness drops as you age. In fact, each year in the United States, about 9 out of 10 flu-related deaths and more than 6 out of 10 flu-related hospital stays occur in adults over 65. 

You may have seen the recent studies which have shown that the vaccine may be less beneficial for people 65 and older than for those who are younger. This is for the same reason that people 65 and older are at greater risk of serious flu illness: their body's immune system is weaker and less able to mount a protective response. However, a flu vaccine offers the best defense available to protect against flu and its complications. 

Flu vaccine supplies are plentiful, but you should get a flu shot as soon as possible, as the timing of influenza outbreaks is unpredictable and it takes about two weeks after vaccination for your body to develop protection against the flu. 

Call your health care provider to schedule an appointment to get vaccinated or search for a public flu clinic online at http://www.mylocalclinic.com. For more information visit www.mass.gov/flu

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