Those 65 and older among the last in line for vaccination
updated 4:16 p.m. ET, Thurs., Sept . 17, 2009
MIAMI - Seniors who for years have made flu shots a fall ritual are being sent to the end of the line for the swine flu vaccine. And the reason — their age group seems to have a bit of immunity — appears to have warded off most potential grumbling.
"I don't worry about getting it," said 89-year-old Robert Goodman, a Boca Raton retiree. "At this age, who the hell cares? You take it as it comes."
Federal guidelines call for the new H1N1 vaccine to be given first to pregnant women, those who live with or care for children 6 months or younger, health care workers, people aged 6 months through 24, and people with chronic health problems or compromised immune systems. Those groups total about 159 million people.
Only after shots are offered to those groups will the vaccine be available to healthy adults 64 and younger. After that, if it is still available, seniors ages 65 and older would be eligible.
Swine flu was first identified in April and is now responsible for almost all flu cases in the United States. It has caused more than 1 million illnesses so far, though most were mild and not reported. Nearly 600 Americans have died from it. Though the elderly have been less likely to catch swine flu, those who do get it are more likely to become seriously ill, government doctors say.
Researchers believe seniors have a partial immunity to swine flu because of exposure to similar viruses in their lifetimes. It is a rare bit of good news before the start of the regular flu season, which generally kills 36,000 people a year, most of them elderly.
Around the country, places where older people live and congregate are stepping up efforts to educate seniors about flu and to get them immunized against seasonal flu.