Influenza, commonly called "the flu," is a serious illness, but for people 65 and older influenza can be far more serious. Most flu-related hospitalizations and deaths each year occur among adults over 65. However, in spite of strong recommendations that older adults should get the influenza vaccine, in 2017 only 65.2 percent of Delaware adults age 65 and older reported a flu shot within the past year.
There was no statistically significant difference by gender. African Americans in this age range had a significantly lower prevalence of flu shots (46.6 percent) than did non-Hispanic whites (67.2 percent).
Pneumonia Vaccine for Adults 65 and Older
Doctors and public health officials also recommend that older adults get a pneumococcal, or pneumonia, vaccine at least once; but a booster may be recommended.
A slightly higher percentage – 77.7 percent – of adults 65 and older report having received a pneumonia vaccination at some time during their lives.
Flu shots are currently recommended for all adults, regardless of age. In 2017, 45.4 percent of all Delaware adults reported getting a flu shot (or vaccine sprayed in the nose) during the year preceding their interviews.
Slightly more women (48.2 percent) than men (42.2 percent) had a flu vaccination in the past year. As with the over-65 population, fewer African American adults were vaccinated (38.4 percent) than whites (48.6 percent). There were no other statistically significant differences by race or ethnicity.
As would be expected, 86.3 percent of those who had a flu shot said they got it between September and December.
Among all adults in 2017, 40.8 percent reported ever having received a pneumonia shot. The question explains that "a pneumonia shot or pneumococcal vaccine is usually given once or twice in a person's lifetime, and is different from a flu shot." There was no statistically significant difference between non-Hispanic whites and African Americans for pneumococcal vaccine, but Hispanic/Latino adults reported a much lower prevalence of pneumonia vaccination (only 22.5 percent).
A final question in the immunization section of the survey asks, "Have you ever had the shingles or zoster vaccine?"
According to WebMD, "Shingles is a painful viral infection of the nerve roots. The virus moves along the nerve fibers and affects cells of the skin, resulting in a skin rash. It is caused by the herpes varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. That virus is never fully cleared from the body and shingles occurs when the virus reactivates."
The vaccine has been available for a little more than a decade and is recommended for anyone who has had chicken pox. In 2017, only 23.6 percent of Delaware adults reported ever having received the vaccine. Older adults, who are at higher risk for shingles, report higher prevalence of receiving shingles vaccine — 39.4 percent of adults age 65 and older.