Health News for Senior Citizens

Health News for Seniors

Seniors must get flu shot now – the deadly season is here

Elderly should consider the 4 times stronger “high dose” vaccine

older woman gets a flu shot - CDCOct. 5, 2015 – You can assume that a lot of senior citizens are going to die from the flu during this 2015-16 flu season that just opened. History tells us up to 90% of those who die from flu this season will be seniors age 65 or older and well over half who are hospitalized with be in this age group, too. Flu is a very serious threat for the elderly and they should consider the extra protection of the “high dose” flu shot.

Actions Seniors Should Take This Flu Season:

Get Your Flu Shot

The best way to prevent the flu is with a flu vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a seasonal flu vaccine, and by October if possible.

Vaccination is especially important for people 65 years and older because they are at high risk for complications from flu.

Flu vaccines are updated to keep up with changing viruses and also immunity wanes over a year so annual vaccination is needed to ensure the best possible protection against influenza.

A flu vaccine protects against the flu viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. (See Vaccine Virus Selection for this season’s exact vaccine composition.) The 2015-2016 vaccine has been updated from last season’s vaccine to better match circulating viruses. Immunity from vaccination sets in after about two weeks.

 

Consider the “high dose” vaccine

People 65 years and older have two flu shots available to choose from - a regular dose flu vaccine and a newer flu vaccine designed specifically for people 65 and older with a higher dose. (The nasal spray vaccine is not approved for use in people older than 49 years.)

The “high dose vaccine” contains 4 times the amount of antigen as the regular flu shot and is associated with a stronger immune response following vaccination (higher antibody production). Preliminary studies suggest this may translate into greater protection against flu disease.

For example, one recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine indicated that the high-dose vaccine was 24.2% more effective in preventing flu in adults 65 years and older relative to a standard-dose flu vaccine. (The confidence interval for this result was 9.7% to 36.5%).

At this time, CDC and its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices have not expressed a preference for either vaccine for people 65 and older, however, there are ongoing studies looking into this issue and new findings will be considered in ACIP's future policy deliberations.

Practice good health habits including covering coughs, washing hands often, and avoiding people who are sick.

Seek medical advice quickly if you develop flu symptoms to see whether you might need medical evaluation or treatment with antiviral drugs. It's very important that antiviral drugs be used early to treat flu in people who are very sick with flu (for example, people who are in the hospital), and people who are sick with flu and have a greater chance of getting serious flu complications, like people 65 and older (see box for full list of high risk persons/conditions).

Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with the flu and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.

Related Links

  Latest information from CDC on the 2015-16 flu season

  Influenza vaccination of health care providers in long-term care: Letter from the Assistant Secretary for Health[121 KB, 2 pages] (http://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/hcp-influenza-vaccination-letter.pdf)

  People at High Risk of Developing Flu–Related Complications(http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.htm)

  CDC Healthy Aging Website

  Treating Influenza (Flu)[927 KB, 2 pages, 8 " x 11"] (http://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/freeresources/updated/treating_flu.pdf)

  Influenza and Pneumonia Vaccination in Older Adults

  NEJM: Efficacy of High-Dose versus Standard-Dose Influenza Vaccine in Older Adults

  Print Materials: Adults 65 Years and Older (http://www.cdc.gov/flu/freeresources/print-seniors.htm)

Q&A About Fluzone High-Dose Seasonal Influenza Vaccine

Information on the Fluzone High-Dose seasonal influenza vaccine.

What is Fluzone High-Dose influenza vaccine?

Fluzone High-Dose is an influenza vaccine, manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur Inc., designed specifically for people 65 years and older.

What is the difference between Fluzone, Fluzone High-Dose, Fluzone Intradermal Quadrivalent, and Fluzone Quadrivalent?

These products are all flu vaccines produced by one manufacturer. There are a number of other flu vaccines produced by other manufacturers.

Fluzone, Fluzone High-Dose, Fluzone Intradermal Quadrivalent, and Fluzone Quadrivalent are all injectable influenza vaccines made to protect against the flu strains most likely to cause illness for that particular flu season.

Fluzone High-Dose vaccine contains four times the amount of antigen (the part of the vaccine that prompts the body to make antibody) contained in regular flu shots. The additional antigen is intended to create a stronger immune response (more antibody) in the person getting the vaccine.

The intradermal flu vaccine is a shot that is injected into the skin instead of the muscle. The intradermal shot uses a much smaller needle than the regular flu shot, and it requires less antigen to be as effective as the regular flu shot. It may be used in adults 18-64 years of age.

Why is a higher dose vaccine available for adults 65 and older?

Human immune defenses become weaker with age, which places older people at greater risk of severe illness from influenza. Also, ageing decreases the body's ability to have a good immune response after getting influenza vaccine. A higher dose of antigen in the vaccine is supposed to give older people a better immune response, and therefore, better protection against flu.

Does the higher dose vaccine produce a better immune response in adults 65 years and older?

Data from clinical trials comparing Fluzone to Fluzone High-Dose among persons aged 65 years or older indicate that a stronger immune response (i.e., higher antibody levels) occurs after vaccination with Fluzone High-Dose.

Whether or not the improved immune response leads to greater protection has been the topic on ongoing research. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine indicated that the high-dose vaccine was 24.2% more effective in preventing flu in adults 65 years of age and older relative to a standard-dose vaccine. The confidence interval for this result was 9.7% to 36.5%).

Is Fluzone High-Dose safe?

The safety profile of Fluzone High-Dose vaccine is similar to that of regular flu vaccines, although some adverse events (which are also reported after regular flu vaccines) were reported more frequently after vaccination with Fluzone High-Dose.

The most common adverse events experienced during clinical studies were mild and temporary, and included pain, redness at the injection site, headache, muscle aches, and malaise. Most people had minimal or no adverse events after receiving the Fluzone High-Dose vaccine.

Who can get this vaccine?

Fluzone High-Dose is approved for use in people 65 years of age and older. As with all flu vaccines, Fluzone High-Dose is not recommended for people who have had a severe reaction to the flu vaccine in the past.

Does CDC recommend one vaccine above another for people 65 and older?

The CDC and its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices have not expressed a preference for any flu vaccine indicated for people 65 and older. CDC recommends flu vaccination as the first and most important step in protecting against the flu.

How is the Fluzone High-Dose vaccine available?

This vaccine is approved for marketing in 0.5 mL preservative-free, single dose, prefilled syringes.

Where you can find more information about Fluzone High-Dose?

Related Health News from Senior Journal Archives

Early antiviral flu drugs reduce hospital stay, disability risk for senior citizens

Antiviral medications also reduces their risk of needing extended care - Sept. 18, 2015

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