LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Many seniors avoid getting a potentially life-saving flu vaccination based on misinformation, Los Angeles County officials said.
Seventy-seven of the 125 county residents who died of flu-related illnesses last flu season were 65 years old or older, according to the Department of Public Health, which prompted Supervisor Hilda Solis to recommend more outreach to older residents, especially in underserved minority communities.
“Every winter the flu virus affects many of our loved ones,” she said, calling it “essential to focus on prevention efforts.”
Solis raised a particular concern about Chinese-Americans living in the San Gabriel Valley. Flu-related illness was the number three cause of death for seniors in this group, she said.
Solis’ motion also called for campaigns to convince more of the county’s nearly 113,000 employees to get their flu shots.
Even seniors who recover from the flu can suffer permanent health declines, according to a study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Los Angeles County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis urged residents last month — when the county’s first reported flu death was announced — to get vaccinated early to ensure the best protection against the virus.
Warning that this influenza season could be particularly bad and aware that some people worry that they can get the flu from the vaccine, Davis reminded residents that the virus in the vaccine is not active.
Some people may experience mild side effects as their bodies mount an immune response, which can include soreness, headaches, fever and nausea, but should be not mistaken for the flu, health officials say.
Children aged 6 months to 8 years old, who are also particularly susceptible to serious flu complications, require two doses of the vaccine.
Supervisor Janice Hahn joined Solis in urging everyone to get immunized.
“It’s painless, it was quick, and I get my flu shot every single year,” Hahn said.
The board voted to assess outreach efforts to seniors and make sure that key populations are reached, as well as to send alerts to county employees encouraging immunization.