A Guide to Getting Vaccinated Age 65 and Over | by heidi

A Guide to Getting Vaccinated Age 65 and Over | by heidi


     


    The senior flu shot is designed to help people 65 and older avoid influenza (the flu) infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all people age 6 months and older get an annual flu vaccine (with very rare exceptions).1


    Since people aged 65 and over are at higher risk for complications and death from the flu, the flu vaccine is particularly important. There are two types of flu vaccine designed specifically for seniors that might offer additional protection. 



    This article will discuss the flu shot for seniors. It will outline the two types of shots designed specifically for people aged 65 and over and the one type of vaccine they should not get. It will cover senior flu shot side effects, when to get a flu shot, and how often you should get a flu shot. 


    Older woman receiving a vaccine shot


    What Is a Senior Flu Shot?

    People 65 and older are at the highest risk for complications from influenza. About half of flu-related hospitalizations and up to 85% of flu-related deaths are in this age group.1 Because of that, it’s critical that they get their flu shot. 


    This age group, like everyone else, will need a flu shot each year. A person's protection wanes over time, and each year the vaccine is tailored to the most prominent flu strains.1 September and October are the best times to get the senior flu shot, but you can get it later in the season too. 


    A person 65 and older can get any available flu shot approved for that age group. However, they shouldn’t get the nasal spray vaccine. In addition, they might benefit from vaccines specifically designed for people 65 and older.1



    Types of Flu Shots for Seniors

    As you age, it’s normal for your body to respond less to vaccines. Older people who get the flu shot generally have a weaker immune response than younger people who get the vaccine. But the vaccine is still effective in reducing medical visits and hospitalizations for the flu.1



    Some flu shots are designed to cause a stronger immune response. These flu vaccines can offer greater protection for people 65 and older. There are two types of senior flu shots that are licensed only for people 65 and older. 


    High-Dose Flu Vaccine

    The high-dose flu vaccine contains four times the amount of antigen, the part of the vaccine that the immune system produces antibodies (proteins that recognize and bind to specific antigens) against. People who get this vaccine often have a stronger immune response.



    One study found that people 65 and older who get the high-dose flu vaccine have 24% more protection against the flu than those in this age group who get the regular flu vaccine.2


    The high-dose flu vaccine is sold under the brand name Fluzone High-Dose. It has been available since 2009. It is licensed only for people 65 years and older.



    Adjuvanted Flu Vaccine

    The adjuvanted flu vaccine uses an added ingredient, known as an adjuvant, to trigger a stronger immune response. It contains the same amount of antigen as the standard flu vaccine.3


    The adjuvanted flu vaccine (brand name Fluad) was approved in the U.S. in 2015. Fluad Quadrivalent is formulated to protect against four strains of influenza, It is licensed in the U.S. only for people 65 and older.



    There’s less research on the adjuvanted flu vaccine than there is on the high-dose flu vaccine. Some insurance information indicates that people age 65 and older who get the adjuvanted flu vaccine are less likely to be hospitalized than those who get the standard flu vaccine.3


    Which Senior Flu Vaccine Is Best?

    The CDC has said that people 65 and older should get any flu vaccine available to them. There is no preference for one type over another.1 Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about whether the high-dose flu vaccine or the adjuvanted flu vaccine might be preferable for you.


    Benefits

    People 65 and older who get the flu vaccine are less likely to contract the flu, be hospitalized, or die.1 The high-dose flu vaccine or the adjuvanted flu vaccine might provide additional protection. 


    Side Effects

    People who get the high-dose flu vaccine are more likely to have side effects than people who get the standard flu vaccine. They include:


    Pain and redness at the injection site

    Feeling tired

    Headache and muscle ache

    Most people who got the high-dose side flu vaccine had no or moderate side effects.2 People who got the adjuvanted flu vaccine were more likely to have mild to moderate side effects.3


    Emergency Flu Symptoms

    Flu can be serious, especially in people 65 and older. If you experience any of the following symptoms you should seek immediate medical care:1


    Difficulty breathing

    Chest or abdominal pain or pressure

    Dizziness or confusion

    Seizures

    Severe pain, weakness, or unsteadiness

    Not urinating or other signs of dehydration

    Symptoms that get better, then worse again

    Chronic medical conditions that get worse during your illness 

    Summary

    The annual flu vaccine is particularly important for people 65 and older as they are at the highest risk of becoming seriously ill with the flu. Half of all flu hospitalizations and at least 70% of flu-related deaths occur in people 65 and older.


    While they can get any flu shot, some studies show additional benefits for senior flu vaccines, which are the high-dose flu vaccine and the adjuvanted flu vaccine.


    A Word From Verywell

    If you’re over the age of 65, it’s important to protect yourself against influenza. The CDC does not say that one vaccine is better than another—it’s just important to get vaccinated. However, some research shows additional protection from the senior flu shots—the high dose and adjuvanted vaccines. Talk to your doctor about whether the flu shot for seniors is right for you. 


    FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

    How often should I get a flu shot?

    You should get a flu shot every year. There are two reasons for this. The protection given by the flu shot gets less effective with time, so you’ll need another dose. In addition, the vaccine is adjusted each year to protect against the strains of flu that are expected to be most common that year.


    When is the best time to get a flu shot?

    September and October are the best times to get a flu shot if you live in the Northern Hemisphere and are age 65 or older.1 However, it’s still worth getting the shot later in the winter, and even into the spring, if you didn't get earlier in the season.


    What is the difference between a regular flu shot and a senior flu shot?

    The senior flu shot is designed to cause a stronger immune response. This is done either by using a higher dose of antigen (the part of the vaccine that triggers the immune response) or by using an adjuvant, an additive that stimulates a stronger response.


    How long does a senior flu vaccine last?

    A person's vaccine immune response decreases over time, and this may happen faster in older people.1 The senior flu vaccine should be given every year in September or October to ensure a good response during flu season.

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