Influenza Awareness Initiative for Phoenix Seniors Highlights Need for Influenza Vaccination for Adults Age 65 and Older

Sep 27, 2011, 11:00 ET from Influenza Immunization for You

PHOENIX, Sept. 27, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- A flu clinic at Manzanita Senior Center today aims to inform older adults about the importance of influenza protection and the key role vaccination plays in helping to improve the body's immune response against the virus. Adults 65 years of age and older are typically the hardest hit by influenza, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A new program launching in the Phoenix area today, called Influenza Immunization for You, urges older adults to talk to their health-care provider about vaccine options.

"I know that, healthy or not, the flu and its complications can stop me and my firefighters in our tracks," said Phoenix Fire Chief Bob Khan. "That's why I consider annual immunization a life-saving measure and am sharing the message with my crew and local residents of all ages."

In addition to inhaling smoke and fumes that can lead to respiratory problems, firefighters also are in close contact with members of the community on a daily basis, increasing their risk of contracting the flu, which can be deadly.    

Flu vaccine is especially critical to protecting older adults against this serious and sometimes deadly virus, according to Dr. Karen Lewis, medical director of the Arizona Immunization Program Office, Arizona Department of Health Services.

"Every year in the United States, thousands of people die from influenza," said Dr. Lewis. "About 90% of the people who die are the elderly—people 65 years old and older. In addition, every year in the United States, about 226,000 people are hospitalized because of influenza. Elderly people are much more likely to be hospitalized from influenza than the average person."

"We protect the elderly in two ways: by making sure that everyone 65 years and older gets a yearly flu shot, and by making sure that everyone else 6 months and older gets a yearly flu shot so that they don't spread influenza to older people who are more likely to be hospitalized and die from it."

Many health-care providers begin vaccinating their older patients as soon as the vaccine becomes available to help ensure patients are protected in advance of the upcoming influenza season.

That's why the City of Phoenix Human Services Department, which operates 15 senior centers, partnered with the Influenza Immunization for You program to offer today's flu clinic at Manzanita Senior Center.

"The flu clinic is specially timed to occur in September – the month when many older adults often visit their health-care providers to receive their annual influenza vaccination," said District 5 Councilman Claude Mattox. "We want to remind older adults to talk to their health-care provider about risks associated with the flu and its complications and about all the available vaccination options."

As part of the initiative, the city will also distribute educational materials about influenza at each of its senior centers.

The Influenza Immunization for You initiative is in collaboration with Sanofi Pasteur.

Marisa Bevilacqua
(551) 265-0087

SOURCE Influenza Immunization for You