The high-dose flu vaccine provides more protection for people 65 and older than a standard flu shot.
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“A large study showed that there is about 25 percent additional protection for people who get the high-dose influenza vaccine,” says Susan Rehm, MD, an infectious diseases specialist at Cleveland Clinic.
In the study of 32,000 people, researchers at 126 U.S. and Canadian centers gave some people the high-dose flu shots and others a regular dose. After testing over two flu seasons, they found that the high-dose version of Fluzone® induced significantly higher antibody responses. It also was 24.2 percent more effective than a standard-dose vaccine at preventing flu in adults age 65 and older.
Dr. Rehm says people who are older do not form antibodies as vigorously as younger people, so the high-dose vaccine was developed. It has been FDA approved for people 65 years and older. This population, in particular, can benefit from the improved immune response induced by the higher dose.
Safety of higher-dose vaccine
Approved in 2009, high-dose Fluzone contains four times as much antigen as standard-dose flu vaccines. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the safety of high-dose flu vaccine is similar to that of regular flu vaccines.
The CDC reports that the most common side effect people experienced during clinical studies were mild and temporary. These included pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, headache, muscle aches, fever and malaise (which are also reported after regular dosing of the flu vaccine). Most people had minimal or no adverse events after receiving the Fluzone high-dose vaccine.
Why receiving the flu vaccine is important
Regardless of which type of vaccine you receive, standard or high-dose, Dr. Rehm says the most important thing is that you take the time to get one.
“Everybody 6 months of age and older needs to get the influenza vaccine every year, so whether it’s the standard dose or the high-dose, what’s most important is that you get your vaccine,” she says. She says it’s important to talk to your doctor if you have questions about which vaccine is right for you.
According to the CDC, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States have ranged from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people. During a regular flu season, about 90 percent of deaths that do occur are in those age 65 years and older. Flu vaccines provide the critical protection we all need.