Flu Season is in Full Swing and Vaccination is Still a Good Idea

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the highest months for flu activity are December through March. That means those who have not received their vaccines still have a chance to protect themselves.
Flu vaccines may not prevent someone from getting the flu, but they will lessen symptoms and reduce hospitalizations. Annual flu vaccines protect against four different viruses, based on the strains that are expected to be dominant this season. Some flu seasons are worse than others, depending upon which viruses are circulating.
There is a hidden benefit to getting annual vaccines, including flu. According to research published in the “Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease,” a study of nearly 2 million participants showed that people who do not get vaccinated against influenza have a 60 percent higher chance of developing Alzheimer’s or another dementia than people who get their flu shot.
“Annual flu vaccinations offer protection against the flu virus, but we are discovering that they also improve long-term health outcomes such as reducing our risk for Alzheimer’s, cardiac arrest and hospitalizations due to diabetes,” said Teresa Morris, program director of the Alzheimer’s Association West Virginia Chapter.
Dr. Avram Bukhbinder, the lead author, said the researchers found the protective association between the flu vaccine and the risk of Alzheimer’s was strongest for those who received their first vaccine at a younger age – in fact, people who received their first flu shot at age 60 benefited more than those who received it at age 70.
At this time, it isn’t clear why the flu vaccine resulted in such a substantial reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. In the study, the authors hypothesize that the vaccine might also train the immune system to respond to beta-amyloid protein plaques – a key part of Alzheimer’s pathology.
Additional research reported during the 2020 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference supported these findings:
*At least one flu vaccine was associated with a 17% reduction in Alzheimer’s incidence. More frequent flu vaccination was associated with another 13% reduction.
*Vaccination against pneumonia between ages 65 and 75 reduced Alzheimer’s risk by up to 40%.
*Individuals with dementia have a higher risk of dying (6-fold) after infections than those without dementia (3-fold).
There are approximately 39,000 West Virginia residents aged 65 and older who are living with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association “2023 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures.” That number is expected to increase to 44,000 by 2025. One in three seniors dies with the disease.
Those concerned about themselves or a loved one can contact the Alzheimer’s Association West Virginia Chapter at 304.343.2717 to schedule a care consultation and be connected to local resources. The Alzheimer’s Association Helpline is available 24/7, 365 days a year to those needing information, guidance or support at 800.272.3900.