Dr. Francisco Garcia 

Kelly Presnell/Arizona Daily Star

If you love someone who is over 65, you can help save their life with one simple action: Persuade them to get a flu shot this season.

Too many people think the flu is just a benign inconvenience. Instead, it is a contagious illness that can be severe and life-threatening, especially for older adults.

Each year in the United States, nine out of 10 flu-related deaths and more than six out of 10 flu-related hospital stays occur in people 65 and older.

There’s a reason for that.

Your hiking boots might be leaving a cloud of dust for your grandchildren to follow and you might be lobbing tennis balls over the net with as much vigor as ever, but your immune system may not work as well as during your younger days. No matter how youthful you feel, age can make you more vulnerable to flu and its complications.

The good news is that there is a vaccine option designed specifically for adults over 65. And while you can’t put a price on health, there’s another bit of good news: The annual flu shot is a Medicare Part B benefit. This means the vaccine is covered with no copay for Medicare beneficiaries 65 and older.

We’re making it easier than ever for seniors to get their vaccination this year.

The Pima County Health Department has joined the Pima Council on Aging and the National Council on Aging to sponsor a Flu + You event focused on educating adults 65 and older about the seriousness of flu and the available vaccine options. Flu shots will be offered as part of the event on Tuesday at the Ellie Towne Flowing Wells Community Center.

If you can’t make it to that program, please consider talking to your health-care provider about the dangers of the flu, the benefits of vaccination and the best flu-vaccination option to meet your needs, whatever your age.

Also know that our public-health clinics will be providing vaccinations this season, with compassionate and knowledgeable Pima County public-health nurses prepared to share the information and services you need to make healthy choices.

The flu can be devastating, even for healthy individuals. If you don’t want the flu to take you down this year, the best way to protect yourself is to get a flu shot. So get vaccinated today. Together let’s create a healthy Pima County: Everyone. Everywhere. Every day.

Francisco García is director of the Pima County Health Department.