As the annual influenza season continues, getting a flu vaccine is more important than ever because recent research shows flu shots can also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia, health officials said Tuesday.
“The implications of this are huge,” said Annemarie Barnett, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Cincinnati and Miami Valley Chapters. “Not only can getting your flu shot protect you from serious illness this flu season, but we now know that getting a single flu shot can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease – and getting regular flu vaccines can offer even more protection.”
Newly published research featuring nearly two million participants found that people who had at least one flu vaccine were 40 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease compared to those who did not get a flu shot, according to the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Cincinnati.
An earlier study also noted that while a single flu shot can reduce an individual’s Alzheimer’s risk, individuals who received consecutive yearly flu vaccines experienced the lowest rates of developing Alzheimer’s or other dementia, the alzheimer’s association said.
The new study also found that people who started getting an annual flu shot at a younger age experienced a higher protective influence against Alzheimer’s, and that being vaccinated against pneumonia between the ages of 65 and 75 has been found to reduce Alzheimer’s risk by up to 40 percent, the association said.
Being vaccinated from the flu is also important for individuals living with dementia, as they have a higher risk of dying from infections. Additionally, people living with dementia have elevated mortality rates for 10 years after an initial infection-related hospitalization, the associations said.
“Infections are high during the winter months, and getting your flu shot is so important,” said Barnett. “The dual effect of reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s and protecting those living with Alzheimer’s who are particularly vulnerable to the flu cannot be overstated.”
Beyond the benefits of reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, the vaccines prevent more than 100,000 flu-related hospitalizations in the U.S. each year.
“It prevents the flu especially for those with weakened immune systems or those who are immunocompromised,” said Highland County Health Department Director of Nursing Erin Mustard. “What we currently use is called a quadrivalent flu vaccine, and it covers four strands of flu.”
Mustard said flu vaccines can be obtained at many pharmacies, doctor’s offices, and some hospitals, which typically accept insurance. The Highland County Health Department also provides flu vaccines and can provide them at no cost to those who are not insured or have coverage that doesn’t cover vaccines.
Appointments for vaccines at the Highland County Health Department can be made for Mondays and Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Reach John Hackley at 937-402-2571.