Need a High Dose Flu Shot?
The flu vaccine is more important this year than ever , so if you come across different versions for the first time, some of them can be confusing. Yes, there is a high dose flu vaccine, and this is one of the versions recommended for people over 65.
What does high dose mean?
The principle of a vaccine is to expose your immune system to a small amount of antigen. An antigen is something that the immune system can recognize and react to later; In many influenza vaccines, the antigen is the killed and torn flu virus. (This is why a flu shot cannot infect you .)
As we age, our immune systems sometimes do not respond as strongly as when we were younger, so a regular flu vaccine may not stimulate the strong immune response we need to be effective. One way to get around this is to simply inject more antigen. This is the idea behind the high dose injection: it just contains more parts of the virus. Specifically, four times more.
Side effects are slightly more common with the high-dose flu vaccine than with the regular vaccine, but these are the same side effects anyone can get from the flu shot, and like the regular flu shot, they are usually not serious. The CDC reports: “The most common side effects seen in clinical trials were mild and temporary and included pain, redness at the injection site, headache, muscle aches and malaise.”
If I am over 65, do I need a high dose flu shot?
The CDC says any flu shot is acceptable as long as it is approved for people in your age group. But there are two flu vaccines specifically for adults 65 and older.
One vaccine is a high dose vaccine and the other is an adjuvant vaccine . Instead of a higher dose of antigen, it contains an adjuvant, which is an ingredient that makes your immune system react more strongly . (The adjuvant in this case is squalene oil.)
There are no randomized trials comparing the two vaccines with each other, according to the CDC, but there is evidence showing that each vaccine works better for people over 65 (preventing flu and reducing hospital admissions) than the standard vaccine.
Complications of influenza are especially serious in the elderly: according to a 2013 study , people over 65 account for more than half of hospital admissions and more than 70% of deaths. Therefore, flu shots are especially important in this age group.