Kim Elliott, RN, Expert on Healthy Aging

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28 September 2020

With the COVID-19 pandemic still a serious ongoing health issue, the approaching flu season will present some heightened challenges. Health experts are calling it a potential double-punch, in which individuals who fail to get a flu shot may find themselves battling both the flu and COVID-19. With this mind, it is more important than ever for everyone to get a flu shot and other vaccinations this fall, especially older adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people 65 and older account for more than 60 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations and between 70 and 90 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths.

At Brookdale, we have plans in place to do everything we can to help protect the health and well-being of our residents, patients and associates as we enter a flu season that overlaps with COVID-19 concerns. But first, let’s put to rest some of the misconceptions about vaccines. The fact is, the injectable flu vaccine contains either an inactivated virus or sometimes only a single protein from the flu virus. This is not enough to give someone the flu but will stimulate the immune system just enough to produce helpful antibodies. Getting a flu vaccine is the smartest, safest thing you can do to protect yourself against catching and transmitting the flu.

 Here are the three things to know about Brookdale’s approach to this year’s double-punch flu season:

First, to protect your health and the health of others, it’s CRITICALLY important that everyone get a flu shot this season. Given the unknowns about COVID-19 and facing two infectious threats this fall, all residents, patients and associates – this includes everyone from frontline care givers to those in an office setting - are advised to get a flu shot.  One exception for flu shots would be those who are in isolation as a result of COVID-19. In these cases, vaccination for flu should be deferred until isolation is no longer necessary. According to a 2017 report by the CDC, about 30 percent of adults 65 years and older skipped their flu shot in 2016. But skipping your shot is taking an unnecessary risk with your health and the health of those around you. The flu vaccine is proven to reduce not only flu illnesses but also more serious flu outcomes that can result in hospitalization or even death in older people.  A 2017 study showed that flu vaccination reduced deaths, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, the length of stay in ICU and overall duration of hospitalization among hospitalized flu patients.

Second, Brookdale is making it as easy as possible for our associates, residents and those who visit them, like friends and family, to get a flu shot and other vaccines at one of our community clinics. Starting this month, every Brookdale community and home health agency will have a scheduled flu vaccination clinic set up on site. Many Brookdale communities will offer outdoor and even drive-up vaccination clinics. In communities with these outdoor clinics, our associates’ families can also receive their flu shots, which are typically covered by their health insurance.  In addition to the flu shot, our scheduled on-site Brookdale community clinics offer vaccinations for shingles, pneumonia and the Tdap booster to both residents and associates (which round out the four vaccines I recommend every senior consider).

 Third – we will maintain vigilance against COVID-19. We must continue social distancing, washing our hands frequently, and wearing masks. We know these measures help keep us safe and reduce the spread of the virus. In our communities, our Brookdale teams are diligently practicing heightened infection control protocols. This means we are better prepared to keep COVID-19 and the flu out of our communities and help stop the spread if there IS an infection. 

 At Brookdale, we’ve quickly adapted to confront and overcome the many challenges posed by COVID-19.  We have over 40 years of experience in helping to control the spread of viruses – so we are prepared for this unique flu season.  But everyone has a role to play.  By receiving a flu shot you are not only protecting yourself, but you’re also protecting friends and family, too, by helping to prevent the spread of the virus. Flu season usually runs from November to March, so the best time to get vaccinated and give your body time to build up antibodies is by the end of October. Think of the flu shot as an investment in your wellness and the wellness of those around you, especially the seniors in your life. It’s preventive care that helps everyone stay healthier.

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