Getting an annual flu shot may already be part of your regular routine, especially if you’re a senior. If it isn’t, you may want to change your routine.
A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal shows that repeating the vaccine year to year is 74 percent effective in preventing flu-related, intensive-care admissions and 70 percent effective in preventing flu-related deaths among adults 65 and older.
Flu vaccines aren’t one-size-fits-all, however. In addition to the standard flu shot, there are two alternatives designed to offer protection for older adults. As you prepare for this year’s flu shot, take time to compare what’s available.
Option 1: High-Dose Flu Vaccine
The Fluzone high-dose flu shot is designed specifically for people aged 65 and older. It has four times the amount of antigen as the regular flu shot, so it’s like getting a super-charged dose.
In terms of effectiveness, a 2017 study of nursing home patients found that the high-dose flu shot was linked to a lower rate of hospitalizations for flu-related symptoms, compared to the standard flu shot. The study suggests that this version of the flu shot could be more beneficial for older adults with weakened immune systems.
Option 2: Adjuvanted Flu Vaccine
The adjuvanted flu vaccine, also known as Fluad, became available in the U.S. for the first time during the 2016-17 flu season. Rather than increasing the amount of antigen, this version of the flu shot has an additive that’s intended to create a stronger immune response in the person who receives it.
A 2017 study of the adjuvanted flu vaccine found it to be effective in preventing flu among seniors in general. Specifically, it was also shown to be more effective than non-adjuvanted flu shot versions in preventing flu-related hospitalizations.
Are there downsides to standard flu shot alternatives?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), both the high-dose flu vaccine and the adjuvanted version can result in the same side effects associated with the standard flu shot. These include:
• Pain, redness or swelling at the injection shot
• Muscle aches
But the CDC notes that these side effects may be greater for people who get the high-dose shot or Fluad. It’s a trade-off of sorts — these flu shots could cut down your odds of getting the flu in the long term, but you may have more side effects in the short term.
Talk to your health care provider about flu shot options
Getting any flu shot can be helpful in preventing the flu if you’re 65 or older, and your doctor can help you decide whether a high-dose or adjuvanted shot could be more beneficial than the regular vaccine.
Discuss whether you have any unique risk factors for getting the flu that might make one shot better than another. Consider the side effects of each one and whether those could be compounded by any existing health conditions you have. Finally, remember to have this talk with your doctor seasonally, since the flu vaccine can change from year to year.