(BPT) - By: Danielle Hambrick, PharmD
As colder weather drives us to spend more time indoors, it's critical to plan for the spread of respiratory infections and get vaccinated, especially for those who are the most vulnerable - adults over the age of 65 and those with chronic conditions. The Department of Health and Human Services estimated that among seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries, receiving COVID-19 primary vaccinations and booster doses resulted in 650,000 fewer hospitalizations for COVID-19 last month and had saved 300,000 lives in 2021.
Despite the benefits of vaccination, most older adults have not received the updated bivalent booster, which provides added protection against more recent circulating viral variants.
Keeping older adults safe this winter season should still be a top priority. Here are 5 things seniors should know:
- COVID-19 is still a public health concern
- Public health officials are expecting another COVID-19 surge this winter as people gather indoors where the virus spreads easier. The risk of severe illness from COVID-19 increases for people over 60, as older people may have weaker immune systems. They also may be more likely to have conditions or diseases which weaken their body's ability to fight infections, making them more vulnerable to infectious disease and hospitalizations.
- Vaccines provide the best protection against COVID-19
- The updated bivalent COVID-19 booster provides protection against both the original virus that causes COVID-19, as well as the more recent omicron variants that are circulating. Fortunately, the immunity people have built up from vaccinations continues to help protect most from serious illness and death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the bivalent booster vaccine for anyone age five years and older as vaccination provides protection even if an individual has already had an infection.
- The CDC reports that the flu is spreading quickly across the U.S.
- Public health officials say that flu activity in the U.S. is being recorded higher than it has in the last decade. It's more important than ever to protect yourself and those around you by getting a flu shot. Yet so far, people are slow to get their flu vaccines compared to the last few years. Flu shots are widely available, and the flu vaccine has been shown to help prevent illness, medical visits, hospitalizations, and deaths. Flu shots are available at Walgreens for anyone age 3 and up.
- Eligible individuals can get two vaccines for two different viruses in one single visit
- Individuals can get the flu shot and an updated COVID-19 booster dose or other CDC-recommended routine immunizations during a single visit to save a trip and help reduce community spread of vaccine-preventable illnesses. Annual flu vaccines are advised as flu causes illness in tens of millions of people every year in the U.S. alone. The flu vaccine also protects people from other serious illnesses and complications, like flu-related pneumonia and flu-related heart attacks or stroke, which are especially dangerous for people with diabetes or chronic heart or lung conditions.
- Vaccines are easy to get at the local pharmacy and can even be scheduled online
- Pharmacists can serve as a trusted resource to discuss vaccine options for both COVID-19 and flu, as well as other routine immunizations, and answer any questions. Walgreens offers convenient, neighborhood locations and appointments that fit family schedules, including evenings and weekends. Appointments are highly encouraged for the best experience and are easy to schedule online by visiting Walgreens.com/ScheduleVaccine, by downloading the Walgreens app or by calling 1-800-WALGREENS, available in both Spanish and English.
 CDC. Stay Up to Date with COVID-19 Vaccines Including Boosters. November 1, 2022.
 National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. September 12, 2022.