Catching the flu might be a hassle for some, but it can be a life-threatening condition for others. Small children, people with pre-existing conditions and the elderly are at an increased risk of dying from a serious flu infection. Up to 650 000 people succumb to the disease every year around the globe. In industrialized countries, most of these deaths occur in the age range of 65 and older. Knowing this, it is surprising how few elderly people are regularly vaccinated against the disease even in more prosperous nations.
In fact, immunization rates vary widely across the globe. South Korea tops the list of the best vaccination rate among OECD nations. The U.S. and the UK, as well as Mexico, Brazil and Australia are also known for immunization rates above 70 percent among seniors. Meanwhile, many European nations like Spain or France only manage to vaccinate around half of their elderly population. According to data from the OECD, Germany and Norway fare even worse, only vaccinating between 30-40 percent of seniors. Eastern European countries and Turkey have the lowest rates in the ranking.
During the coronavirus pandemic, flu shots have been deemed "more important than ever", because they protect from dangerous co-infections with both viruses that can be especially lethal for older people.
Nations that vaccinate a lot of older people often do so as a result of government immunization programs directly targeting the elderly. In Brazil, for example, immunization campaigns have been taking place since 1999, where flu shots are given out for free.