Like most health insurance providers, Medicare covers a variety of preventive services and screenings at no cost to you. One of these is the flu shot. This not only protects you from getting the flu but saves Medicare the much greater expense of treating thousands of patients who have the flu. In this post, we explain why you should get the flu shot every year and also touch on the pneumococcal vaccine that’s also covered by Medicare Part B.
While the flu vaccine benefits everyone, some people are more susceptible to complications of the flu – some of them life-threatening. High-risk groups include:
Influenza is an extremely contagious infection that strikes the respiratory system. For that reason, certain conditions also increase your risk. These include:
The American Lung Association provides a complete list of risk factors for flu complications.
Most vaccinations against disease require a single shot, although some require a series of inoculations. However, even those require only two or three shots to protect you for the rest of your life.
The flu shot is different because the flu is different. The virus that causes influenza mutates and changes. These mutations are why the vaccine that protected you against last year’s flu strain probably won’t work against this year’s.
Although the CDC recommends getting the flu shot before October 31, the FDA assures us it’s not too late to get vaccinated. The disease peaks in December and February but lingers through May in many areas of the U.S.
You may begin feeling some of these symptoms early, before feeling truly ill. This is particularly true of fatigue and just feeling run down.
A less common symptom among adults is nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Recovery typically takes a few weeks, but you may continue to feel run down and just tired weeks later, particularly if you’re in one of the high-risk groups.
The most common flu complications are sinus infection and pneumonia, particularly for those over 65 and under 5.
Additional serious flu complications include:
Again, these complications are much more common for those over 65. That’s why getting the flu shot is so important.
The following symptoms are a sign that it’s time to go to the hospital.
Children’s emergency symptoms are slightly different. They include:
Children may also avoid interacting with others. Anyone exhibiting any of these symptoms should go to the hospital immediately.
Even if you’re vaccinated, you can still spread influenza germs. The following healthy habits help protect you and your family, friends, and coworkers.
Always remember that hand contact is the most common means of spreading the flu virus.
Pneumonia is one of the most common complications with flu, particularly for seniors. The pneumococcal vaccines protects you against a whopping 36 pneumonia strains. Medicare covers these shots if you get them in the order recommended by the CDC.
First get the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, aka PCV13, which guards against 13 different strains. After 12 months, you can get the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine, PPSV23. This protects you against 23 different pneumococcal bacteria strains.
Again, Medicare only covers the second shot if at least 12 months pass between it and the first. You may get both the flu and pneumonia inoculations at the same time.
Before getting the pneumococcal shots, tell your doctor whether you had any adverse reactions after previous vaccinations.
Medicare Part B covers both the flu and pneumococcal vaccinations with no out-of-pocket costs to you (assuming your provider accepts assignment). The reason is simple: It’s more cost-effective than treating you for the disease itself. Luckily, what’s good for Medicare is also good for you.
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Last Updated 12/21/2018