2021-2022 influenza (flu) season: Seven things seniors need to know

September 27, 2021
Aspire Blog - 2021-2022 influenza (flu) season

Yes, the 2021-2022 flu season is upon us, and it’s time to remind you that “YES”, you still need a flu shot. Influenza is a potentially serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death, and an annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to help protect against flu.  Without question, flu vaccinations reduce deaths, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, ICU length of stay, and overall duration of hospitalization among hospitalized flu patients.

The COVID-19 pandemic is still very much a part of our lives, and with vaccines available for both COVID-19 and the flu, we know you may have questions. With the help of the CDC and James Gilbert, MD, our chief medical officer (CMO), the Aspire Health Plan team has put together a list of questions (and answers) for seniors heading into the 2021-2022 influenza (flu) season.

1. What’s different for the 2021-2022 influenza (flu) season?

Each year, the flu vaccination is updated to cover the specific strains of the virus that are anticipated.  All flu vaccines will be quadrivalent, meaning they have been developed to protect against the four variants of the influenza virus that are most likely to spread through the US.

2. When should I get a flu shot?

For most of us, the best time to get a flu shot is by the end of October. Getting it too early (July or August) could mean that immunity wears off later in the season. But even if you don’t get it by the end of October, it is certainly better to get it at any time, than not be protected at all.

3. Is there a special, age-appropriate vaccine for older adults?

There are several flu vaccine formulations approved for use in people 65 and older. These include two “enhanced” flu vaccines – the high-dose flu vaccine and the adjuvanted flu vaccine. Both vaccines help create a stronger immune response. Note that the CDC does not give a blanket recommendation for flu vaccines for all adults ages 65 and older. If you have any questions about which flu vaccine is best for you, we recommend contacting your healthcare provider.

4. What’s the difference between the flu and COVID-19?

The flu and COVID-19 are both serious, life-threatening respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. At this time, there is little information about how being infected with the flu might affect a person’s risk of getting COVID-19. Also, it is possible to be infected with both a flu virus and the virus that causes COVID-19 at the same time. COVID-19 spreads more easily than the flu, causes more serious illness and can take longer to show symptoms. Because symptoms can be very similar, your doctor can order a test to help confirm whether you have COVID-19, the flu or another illness. The CDC has a handy, up to date FAQ page to help you compare the two. If you think you are sick with the flu or COVID-19, contact your doctor or healthcare provider immediately.

5. Can I get a flu vaccine and a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time?

Flu vaccines and COVID-19 vaccines can be given at the same time. Remember that flu vaccines are not designed to protect against COVID-19. Also remember that getting a COVID-19 vaccine is the best protection against COVID-19, but the vaccine is not designed to protect against flu.

6. If COVID-19 is spreading in the Monterey County community, should I still go out and get a flu shot?

Getting a flu shot is an important part of protecting your health and your loved one’s health each year. You should still get a flu vaccine and take the familiar precautions — including wearing a mask and practicing social distancing — when getting your flu shot. Aspire Health Plan will notify members of flu shot clinics, and you can also reach out to your provider. Vaccination providers follow guidelines sent out by the CDC to ensure safe administration of vaccines.

7. Does Medicare (or my Medicare Advantage plan) cover the flu vaccine? 

The flu shot is covered for people with Original Medicare and also Medicare Advantage (MA). If you have an Aspire Health Plan MA plan, we cover both the regular and high-dose flu vaccine. Learn more about other immunizations covered by Medicare.

Remember: getting vaccinated will also protect people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness: babies and young children, older people, and people with certain chronic health conditions.

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