NEW YORK — Americans 65 and older should get newer, inflated flu shots because regular shots don’t offer them enough protection, a federal advisory committee said Wednesday.
The panel unanimously recommended certain flu shots that might offer more or longer protection for older people, whose weakened immune systems don’t respond as well to traditional shots.
Options include: Fluzone High-Dose, Fluad with an immune booster, or Flublok which is made with insect cells instead of chicken eggs.
The panel’s recommendations are generally adopted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and become government guidance for American doctors and their patients. It would be the first time the government has declared a preference for the flu vaccine for the elderly.
US officials currently say that all Americans 6 months and older should get the flu shot each season.
Flu shots tend to be less effective than other common vaccines, but have often been particularly disappointing in older people. Health officials say there is compelling research indicating that some of the newer vaccines work better in older adults, particularly in preventing flu-related hospitalizations. Studies are limited, however, and there is little research comparing the three newer versions.
“These flu vaccines are better but still not the home run that we would like to have,” said panelist Dr. Helen Keipp Talbot, Vanderbilt University,
The new shots have made their way. About 80% of Medicare beneficiaries receive the inflated vaccines each year, primarily the high-dose one, officials said. Newer versions can cost about three times as much as standard flu shots, but they are covered by insurance programs.
Panel members said older people should get regular flu shots if the latest ones aren’t available.
Also on Wednesday, CDC officials reported that the flu vaccine didn’t work very well last winter, when most illnesses were caused by a strain of flu that vaccines traditionally do a relatively poor job against. . The vaccine was 35% effective in preventing flu symptoms severe enough to require a visit to the doctor. It was about 44% effective in children and lower in adults.
The Associated Press Health and Science Department is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.