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Older People Might Consider Waiting A Bit Longer To Get Flu Shot

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

You've probably seen the signs in pharmacies now - flu shots here. You can buy shampoo, deodorant, nasal spray, M&M's and a flu shot. But if you're of a certain demographic, you might consider waiting a while before you get that shot. Here's some advice from Dr. Laura Haynes, a professor of immunology at the University of Connecticut.

LAURA HAYNES: The best time for most people to get the flu vaccine would be in October. If you're a little bit older and over 65, I would say between Halloween and Thanksgiving.

SIMON: Why should older people wait a month or more? Dr. Haynes says...

HAYNES: Their immune response isn't as good to the vaccine. So the protection that's induced wanes more quickly. So therefore, you'd want to wait a little bit longer than you would if you were a younger adult. That way, you're protected throughout the majority of the really bad flu season, which happens from, say, January to April.

SIMON: Dr. Haynes acknowledges that a flu shot will not always keep you from getting the flu. She says it's about 60 to 90 percent effective for children and adults - somewhat less for the elderly. But she believes they're still worthwhile.

HAYNES: People who are elderly should still get the flu vaccine because even if it doesn't keep them from getting the flu, it's been shown that it will keep them from getting sick enough that they have to go to the hospital. And staying out of the hospital is always a good thing.

SIMON: You could catch cold just wearing those flimsy hospital gowns that flap in the back. And the doctor adds that if this month is the most convenient time for you to get a flu shot, by all means - better to have it early than not at all. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.