Anthem Encourages Older Adults to Protect Themselves with Annual Flu Shot

Seniors Who Are Confused by Their Vaccine Options Should Talk to
Their Doctor

INDIANAPOLIS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Flu protection is critical for older adults (65 years old and over)
because 54 percent to 70 percent of all flu-related hospitalizations
occur in this age group. Aging seniors– and their loved ones – need to
do their research and work closely with their doctors this year to
ensure they get proper protection against the potential ravages of the
flu, as the flu season can begin as early as October and last as late as
May.

In terms of vaccine options, the flu mist, a popular alternative to the
flu shot, has never been recommended for aging seniors, but that’s
especially true this season since the mist proved ineffective for all
age groups in treating the flu last season, according to Dr. Richard
Frank, medical director for Medicare products at Anthem Inc. There are
several alternatives and additional vaccines to consider, Frank said.

There is a “high dose vaccine” designed specifically for select people
65 and older. It is four times stronger than the regular flu shot. This
year there is also a flu vaccine for older adults with an adjuvant to
create a stronger immune response. This vaccine has proven effective in
some studies and is considered an acceptable alternative.1 In
addition, there is always the tried and true annual flu shot, which is
formulated each year based on early flu season projections and is
available in either standard trivalent (protection against three
viruses) or quadrivalent (protection against four viruses) varieties
this year.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend one
vaccine over another,” Frank said. “Therefore, we recommend older adults
work closely with their doctors to get the vaccine that is right for
them. Importantly for those with a Medicare plan, the cost for flu
vaccines is covered and they are readily available at a number of
locations, enabling aging seniors to readily receive the care they need.

“Last season’s flu shot is not enough to protect you again this year,”
Frank added. “Viruses change and immunity wanes over a year so annual
vaccination is needed to ensure the best possible protection against
influenza.”

For older adults who have not received a flu vaccine, the CDC also
recommends two pneumococcal vaccinations to protect against pneumonia,
meningitis and bloodstream infections. The vaccines are administered a
year apart. Both are covered by Medicare as long as they’ve never been
administered before. Seniors can get either (but not both) when they get
their flu vaccine. Unlike a flu shot, these vaccinations do not require
annual updates.

Finally, it’s important for aging seniors to take day-to-day precautions
to protect themselves from viruses, including avoiding close contact
with infected people, keeping hands away from the face, washing hands
with soap and water, getting plenty of sleep, being physically active,
managing stress, drinking plenty of liquids and eating nutritious foods.
Anyone with flu symptoms should contact their health care provider
immediately to determine if antiviral treatment would assist in their
recovery. Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines that fight against
the flu in your body. Early treatment could cut the duration of a
hospital stay for older adults and reduce their risk of needing extended
care after discharge.2 Most Medicare plans cover antiviral
drugs on their formularies.

The flu vaccine is not recommended for those allergic to eggs or any of
the ingredients in the vaccine or for people who have had Guillain-Barré
Syndrome. Older adults should also avoid the intradermal flu vaccine,
which is given with a smaller needle and not in the muscle for those
fearful of shots. For more information about the dangers of flu and the
benefits of vaccinations, talk to a health care provider or visit www.cdc.gov/flu.

About Anthem, Inc.

Anthem is working to transform health care with trusted and caring
solutions. Our health plan companies deliver quality products and
services that give their members access to the care they need. With over
73 million people served by its affiliated companies, including nearly
40 million within its family of health plans, Anthem is one of the
nation’s leading health benefits companies. For more information about
Anthem’s family of companies, please visit www.antheminc.com/companies.

1 http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/adjuvant.htm

2 http://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2015/09/03/early-treatment-with-flu-antivirals-may-shorten-seniors-hospital-stay

Contacts

Anthem, Inc.
Doug Bennett Jr., (502) 889.2103
Doug.BennettJr@anthem.com