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Flu Shot Prevalence Low
Among Highest Risk Population


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 2020 only 67.8 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 (50.1 percent) than did non-Hispanic whites (71.1 percent).

Prevalence Among All Adults

CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get seasonal flu vaccine each year by the end of October. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating, vaccination should continue throughout flu season, even in January or later. However, respondents to the Behavioral Rick Factor Survey must be at least 18 years old. Therefore, we can only estimate a flu vaccine prevalence for adults.

In 2020, 48.7 percent of all Delaware adults reporting getting a flu vaccine during the year preceding their interviews. Slightly more women (51.8 percent) than men (45.2 percent) had a flu vaccination in the past year. Fewer African American adults 65 years or older were vaccinated (41.1 percent) and even fewer Hispanic adults were vaccinated (36.8 percent) than whites (54.2 percent) in the same age group. There were no other statistically significant differences by race or ethnicity.

Similarly, 95.9 percent of those who had a flu shot said they got it between September and December 2020.

Pneumonia Vaccine for Adults 65 and Older

For adults 65 years or older, CDC recommends routine pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23) and pneumococcal conjugate vaccine PCV13. Discuss your vaccine needs with your clinician.

A slightly higher percentage – 71.6 percent – of adults 65 and older report having received a pneumonia vaccination at some time during their lives.

Shingles or Zoster Vaccine

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 2020, only 28.3 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 — 42.5 percent of adults age 65 and older.

There are two brands of shingles vaccine. Neither is covered through Medicare part B, the part of Medicare that covers doctor office visits. It is covered through Medicare part D, also known as the drug plan. Coverage through Medicaid varies.


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