WellPoint Urges Seniors to Get Flu, Pneumonia Vaccines

  WellPoint Urges Seniors to Get Flu, Pneumonia Vaccines

     For older adults, the seasonal flu can be very serious, even deadly

Business Wire

INDIANAPOLIS -- December 28, 2012

The seasonal flu can be serious for everybody. So serious, in fact, that the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that nearly
everyone get a flu vaccine.^i This is particularly true for seniors (adults 65
and older).

As people age, it becomes more difficult for them to fight illness. As a
result, older adults are at greater risk of serious flu-related complications,
including pneumonia, hospitalization and even death. According to Flu.gov, a
website collaboration of several government agencies, 90 percent of
flu-related deaths and more than half of flu-related hospitalizations occur in
people age 65 and older.^ii

Fortunately, seniors can take measures to protect themselves by being
vaccinated against both the flu and pneumonia. Unfortunately, one-third of
people age 65 and older do not get their annual influenza shots and more than
one-third have never been vaccinated against pneumonia, according to the CDC.
With the flu season under way, WellPoint is urging those 65 and older to get
vaccinated against the flu and pneumonia.

“With few exceptions, there really is no reason for seniors not to get their
vaccines, including their flu and pneumonia vaccines,” said Dr. Karen Amstutz,
WellPoint’s medical director for Medicare and Medicaid products. “Studies have
shown that these vaccines are generally safe and effective. They also are easy
to get and typically paid for by Medicare.”

Following are some things WellPoint wants seniors to know about vaccines and
flu season.

Flu Vaccine: Flu shots this year address three viruses, including the H1N1
virus, the H3N2 virus and an influenza B virus. While the H1N1 virus used to
make the 2012-2013 flu vaccine is the same virus that was included in the
2011-2012 vaccine, the influenza H3N2 and B vaccine viruses are different from
those in the 2011-2012 influenza vaccine for the Northern Hemisphere.

Pneumonia, too: Even some people who get the flu vaccine forget to get the
pneumonia vaccine. According to the CDC, seniors should get both. Unlike the
annual flu shot, most people need to get the pneumonia vaccine only once,
although under some circumstances a second dose may be needed, according to
the CDC. It is important for seniors to keep good records about their
vaccination history, the CDC says.

Easy Does It: Getting vaccinated is easy for Medicare beneficiaries and their
pocketbooks. Most people get the vaccines at their primary care physician’s
office. Additionally, many flu vaccine clinics are offered. The shot also is
increasingly available at pharmacies and retail locations. The costs of both
vaccines and their administration are generally covered by Medicare Part B, as
long as the provider accepts Medicare patients.^iii

Safety First: There’s a common misperception that the flu shot can give people
the flu. It can’t. Flu shots are inactivated vaccines containing killed
viruses ― they aren’t live so they can’t cause infection, according to
flu.gov.^iv Manufacturers kill the viruses while making the vaccine and
batches are tested to ensure safety. In addition to the shots, there is a flu
mist made from a weakened form of the virus, but it isn’t recommended for
seniors, according to the CDC. Like flu shots, pneumonia shots are made from
inactivated materials.^v

Never Too Late: It’s a good idea to get the flu vaccine as soon as it’s
available in the fall. However, since influenza activity typically doesn’t
peak until January or February, it’s still worth getting the vaccine as late
as January. The pneumonia vaccine is offered year round. Health plans like
WellPoint’s affiliated plans send reminders to their members about the
importance of being vaccinated.

Follow Doctor’s Orders: Even though flu and pneumonia vaccines are recommended
for seniors there are some exceptions, so be sure to follow your doctor’s
orders. For example, flu vaccines are not recommended for people severely
allergic to chicken eggs or those who had a bad reaction in the past.

Everyday Precautions: According to the CDC, the flu spreads mainly when people
with the flu cough, sneeze or talk. For that reason, it’s a good idea to avoid
close contact with infected people and to keep your hands away from your eyes,
nose and mouth. Other good flu-fighting tips include maintaining healthy
habits, such as washing hands with soap and water, getting plenty of sleep,
being physically active, managing stress, drinking plenty of liquids and
eating nutritious foods.

For more information about the dangers of flu and the benefits of
vaccinations, talk to a health care provider or visit www.cdc.gov/flu. A list
of flu clinics is available by going to www.flu.gov and plugging in a zip
code.

This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be
interpreted as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider for
advice about treatments that may affect your health.

About WellPoint, Inc.

At WellPoint, we believe there is an important connection between our members’
health and well-being—and the value we bring our customers and shareholders.
So each day we work to improve the health of our members and their
communities. And, we can make a real difference since we have approximately 36
million people in our affiliated health plans, and approximately 66 million
people served through our subsidiaries. As an independent licensee of the Blue
Cross and Blue Shield Association, WellPoint serves members as the Blue Cross
licensee for California; the Blue Cross and Blue Shield licensee for Colorado,
Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri (excluding 30
counties in the Kansas City area), Nevada, New Hampshire, New York (as the
Blue Cross Blue Shield licensee in 10 New York City metropolitan and
surrounding counties and as the Blue Cross or Blue Cross Blue Shield licensee
in selected upstate counties only), Ohio, Virginia (excluding the Northern
Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.), and Wisconsin. In a majority of these
service areas, WellPoint’s plans do business as Anthem Blue Cross, Anthem Blue
Cross and Blue Shield, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia and Empire Blue
Cross Blue Shield, or Empire Blue Cross (in the New York service areas).
WellPoint also serves customers throughout the country as UniCare and in
certain markets through our Amerigroup and CareMore subsidiaries. Our 1-800
CONTACTS, Inc. subsidiary offers customers online sales of contact lenses,
eyeglasses and other ocular products. Additional information about WellPoint
is available at www.wellpoint.com.

WellPoint affiliated plans are health plans with a Medicare contract.

WellPoint affiliated plans are stand-alone prescription drug plans with a
Medicare contract.

^i http://www.cdc.gov/media/pressrel/2010/r100224.htm, accessed Oct. 16, 2012

^ii http://www.flu.gov/individualfamily/seniors/index.html, accessed Oct. 16,
2012

^iii http://www.cdc.gov/flu/, accessed Oct. 16, 2012

^iv http://www.flu.gov/individualfamily/vaccination/vsafety/20102011.html,
accessed Oct. 22, 2012

^v http://www.vaccineinformation.org/pneumchild/qandavax.asp, accessed Oct.
16, 2012

Contact:

WellPoint, Inc.
Doug Bennett, 502-889-2103
doug.bennettjr@wellpoint.com
 
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