During the annual flu shot season, high-dose flu vaccines are the ones approved for people aged 65 and over. Like other influenza vaccines, the high-dose flu vaccine is made up of flu viruses that are most likely to cause fever or sickness during the upcoming flu season.
According to research, the influenza virus, also known as the flu, affects between 9 and 45 million people in the United States each year. The flu, which brings muscle aches, a cough, and acute weariness, is something no one wants to get. For that reason, it’s vital to take all feasible precautions to avoid developing it, including getting your annual flu vaccination.
As prescribed, older adults 65 years and above can choose the high-dose flu vaccine for their annual flu shot. For adults within the approved age group, the high-dose flu vaccine provides higher protection than the usual dosage flu vaccine.
Why Do We Need An Annual Flu Shot?
It is important for everybody to get their flu vaccine yearly as this can serve as their protection especially during flu season. This is definitely advisable for people 65 years and above because the high risk is partly due to changes in natural defenses as people become older.
While flu seasons vary in strength, in most cases, those 65 and older are the ones who suffer the most from severe flu illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over the past couple of years, an estimated 70 percent to 85 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths and 50 percent to 70 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations have occurred in people age 65 years and older. This is alarming as older adults are more likely to develop flu-related complications, such as:
- 3 to 5 times increased risk of heart attacks
- 2 to 3 times risk of stroke (in the first 2 weeks of infection)
High Dose Vaccine for Flu
Known as Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent, the high-dose flu vaccine is the only approved vaccine that consists of an inactivated influenza (which has certain antibody products to fight viruses). Note that the high-dose flu vaccine is a quadrivalent, which means it includes four distinct influenza virus strains that help in killing bacteria in a person’s body. Every year, the vaccine’s specific composition varies in order to match the strains that are likely to circulate throughout flu season.
Below are the strains included for this year:
- Two type A influenza viruses — H1N1 and H3N2
- Two type B influenza viruses — Victoria and Yamagata lineages
Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent Vs Fluzone Quadrivalent
Allowing your body to build up immunity against influenza viruses, Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent has four times the substance of Fluzone Quadrivalent and other standard-dose flu vaccines. The higher antigen dose in the vaccine the more it promotes a stronger immune response to vaccination. As a result, better flu protection for people 65 years and older. Fluzone Quadrivalent (standard dosage) and Fluzone High-Dose are both quadrivalent vaccines produced by the same firm (Sanofi Pasteur Inc.).
Based on the CDC recent flu vaccine release for 2021/2022, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a list of flu vaccines including:
- Standard dose | Egg-based
- Afluria Quadrivalent
- Fluarix Quadrivalent
- FluLaval Quadrivalent
- Fluzone Quadrivalent
- Fluad Quadrivalent — An adjuvant vaccine (for the stronger immune system)
- High dose | Egg-based
- Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent
- Standard dose | Cell Cultured-based
- Flucelvax Quadrivalent — Egg-free vaccine (safer for those who experience an allergic reaction to egg)
- Recombinant | Lab-made antigen
- Flublok Quadrivalent — Egg-free and no flu virus
- Egg-based | Nasal spray vaccine
- FluMist Quadrivalent — A long-lasting protection (restricted to children under two years old and older people over 50 years old
Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent’s Effectiveness and Protection
For individuals over 65, data has recently indicated that high-dose flu vaccinations are more effective than standard dosage vaccines. In order to reflect this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changed its flu vaccination guidelines in 2020.
People over 65 years are recommended to get yearly shots of the following:
- A high-dose flu vaccine
- An adjuvant flu vaccine
- A recombinant flu vaccine
High Dose Flu Vaccine Side Effects
According to clinical studies, there are minimal to no side effects for those who took the high-dose flu vaccine. For those who do experience side effects, the following are the most common during clinical trials:
- mild and temporary pain
- red mark on the injected area
- muscle aches
Remember that the side effects are perfectly normal. Note that the flu-like symptoms you might experience are expected outcomes of the vaccination. You should expect recovery from all symptoms within 1 to 2 days. If any of these last longer than 2 days or are getting more severe, consult your doctor immediately.
Who is Eligible to Get Vaccinated?
Children are more likely to get infected with the flu. If you’re younger, stay with the usual dose vaccination. Consult your doctor to determine which flu vaccine is best for you.
Although older people are least likely to get influenza infections, the symptoms and effects are worse. That’s why people 65 years and above can choose the high-dose flu vaccine for their annual flu shot. For adults within the approved age range, the high-dose flu vaccine provides higher protection than the usual dosage flu vaccine.
The high-dose flu vaccine is currently licensed only for adults 65 and older. However, people under that age bracket can get it but should consult a doctor first. But there really isn’t much it can do to younger people than the usual flu vaccine can do. Also, it may not be covered by health insurance so prepare to pay for it in cash if you insist on the high-dose flu vaccine.
Individuals with egg allergies can still get vaccinated. Allergic reactions to the flu vaccine, regardless of which type, are very rare. But if you experience one or more of the following reactions after getting the flu vaccine, seek emergency care immediately.
- rash or hives
- difficulty in breathing
- rapid or irregular heartbeat (often with a feeling of impending doom)
- nausea and vomiting
- dizziness or passing out
- confusion or disorientation
- swelling (lips, tongue, throat, or face)
Get Your Flu Vaccine Now
For those over 65, high-dose flu vaccinations are one of many alternatives for influenza immunization. The dead flu virus is present in greater quantities in this vaccine than in the usual dosage flu vaccine. This helps aid older persons’ immune systems in responding more positively to the vaccination, providing them with higher protection.
Getting your yearly flu vaccine, in addition to other usual preventative steps, is one of the best methods to avoid getting sick with the flu. Regardless of which choice you and your health care practitioner determine is best for you, a flu vaccine should be part of your path to self-care.