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H1N1 and Seasonal Influenza

2010-2011 Influenza Campaign

The U.S. Administration on Aging (AoA) and the national Aging Network have a long time commitment and energetic partnerships to promote the vaccination of older adults to prevent the seasonal flu. Since seniors who contract the flu have a high possibility of suffering serious complications or may even die if they contract the flu, AoA is a strong advocate for encouraging annual immunization. Those who work with seniors on a day-to-day basis have been keenly aware of the importance of preventing the flu through the annual seasonal flu vaccination. It is equally important for those who care for seniors to be vaccinated as well in order to deter any possibility of unnecessary exposure to the infection.

This year, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has produced a number of public education materials that are readily available on various websites. The information included below provides important key points with hyperlinks to authoritative sources for more information.

Key Facts on the Flu

The Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (DHHS/CDC) are stressing the following points about flu vaccinations:

  • Getting vaccinated is the first and best way to prevent the flu.
  • The time to get vaccinated is as soon as the vaccine is available in your community; the vaccine lasts throughout the year.
  • The flu vaccine is now recommended for all individuals over the age of six months.
  • The elderly, persons with chronic health problems (asthma, diabetes, and heart disease), pregnant women and small children are the most susceptible to serious illness and complications if they contract the flu.
  • The flu vaccine has been safely used by millions of people for decades.
  • The 2010-2011 flu vaccine has been updated into a single shot that protects against seasonal flu, H1N1 and Influenza type B.
  • After the vaccination, it takes nearly two weeks for the body to develop the full immunity provided by the vaccine.
  • The supply of flu vaccine is plentiful with 129 million doses distributed so far and more on the way.
  • National Immunization Week is December 5-10 with family day scheduled on December 6 and Older Adults Day scheduled on December 9.
  • This year’s campaign is particularly targeting the African American and Hispanic communities as the percentage of vaccination rates for these individuals is lower.

The flu is contagious. It is spread through respiratory droplets, coughing, sneezing, touching and sharing items with persons who have the flu. People may be infected at least a day before symptoms become apparent and individuals are usually contagious for five to seven days.

Since the flu is so contagious, it is particularly important for caregiver and health care providers to be vaccinated. All individuals, including family members who come in close contact with the elderly and others with chronic health care needs should be vaccinated.

Good hygiene helps individuals protect themselves from contracting the flu. Washing hands frequently with soap and water or the alcohol based hand rub helps. Keep hands away from the face to avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth helps to keep the germs from entering the body. Covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing helps protect others. Avoid close contact with people who are ill. Individuals with a fever should stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever subsides.

Flu.gov

More extensive information is available on the Department of Health and Human Services Website: http://www.flu.gov. This website includes expansive information, including posters for a variety of audiences, which can be reproduced and shared with others. It also includes a hyperlink of where to go for a vaccination in your area by clicking on the “flu vaccine finder”. The new Eldercare Locator website also includes a hyperlink to the flu finder information.

Medicare Coverage and Resources

Medicare pays for the annual seasonal flu vaccine for all beneficiaries. There is no co-pay or deductible. Vaccine providers/suppliers bill Medicare for the cost of administering the vaccine through a separate billing process. See the CMS website for resources for providers that contain more details. Note that the provider section on the CMS website includes specific information about the Pneumococcal vaccination. Seniors are encouraged to talk with their doctors about obtaining the Pneumonia vaccine every five years.

CMS has a poster in English and Spanish entitled “Get the Flu Vaccine, Not the Flu.” See the first link below. The second and third links provide information for beneficiaries. The other resources offer information on how to prevent illness during the winter season.

CMS Poster – “Get the Flu Vaccine, Not the Flu” (English and Spanish)
My Health. My Medicare
Mi Salud. Mi Medicare.
Get Set for Winter Illness Season
Prepárese para la Temporada de Enfermedades Invernales

Medicaid Coverage

Medicaid policy differs state by state. Get more information about flu vaccine coverage by Medicaid by contacting your State Medicaid office.

For more information, please call 1-800-MEDICARE or go to http://www.Medicare.gov .