Flu Vaccine Recommendations: High-Dose More Effective, Especially for Certain Age Groups
November 10, 2023
According to the results of a new study spanning the last three flu seasons, health experts are officially backing the high-dose flu vaccine for individuals over the age of 65. The high-dose vaccine contains four times as many antigens as standard-dose vaccines do, and offers more comprehensive protection, lowering the severity of potential complications in breakthrough cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC) report that flu activity typically peaks between December and February and recommend routine annual influenza vaccinations for all people over the age of 6-months-old who do not have any contraindications.
The Flu: General Information, Symptoms and Potential Complications
Although most people who contract the influenza virus will experience mild to moderate symptoms and usually recover without requiring medical intervention, some will experience more serious complications. In the most severe cases, the flu can be fatal. Certain individuals face higher risks for experiencing serious complications, such as those with chronic health conditions like diabetes, chronic kidney disease, heart disease, stroke and asthma. Because of their age, people aged 65 and older are also at high risk for experiencing preventable, flu-related complications.
Since 2010, the CDC has estimated that approximately 12,000-61,000 individuals die each year from the flu. Symptoms range in children and adults, but mild flu symptoms in all ages typically present as some of the following:
- Fever or feeling feverish
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Children experiencing mild to moderate flu symptoms may also experience diarrhea and/or vomiting
Signs of a potential flu-related emergency in children include a bluish face and/or lips, fast breathing or experiencing a difficulty breathing, chest pain, ribs pulling in with each breath, severe muscular pain, dehydration, seizures, a fever above 104 degrees (if the child is under 3-months-old than any fever is an emergency) and any worsening of a preexisting chronic health condition. If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, you should take them to your local emergency room right away. In adults, serious symptoms that you should immediately seek emergency care for include:
- Shortness of breath or struggling to breath
- Inability to urinate
- Persistent pain and/or pressure in the chest and/or abdomen
- Dizziness, confusion or the inability to wake up
- Severe muscular pain, weakness or unsteadiness
- A fever or cough that improves over time but then worsens when it returns
- Worsening of a chronic medical condition
The Study’s Results
The study’s researchers evaluated more than 44,000 influenza cases. Of those, 52% were unvaccinated, 33.8% received the high-dose vaccine and the remaining 14.2% were recipients of a standard dose. The researchers observed a “significant reduction” in mortality rates among breakthrough cases across all three flu seasons for high-dose vaccine recipients aged 65 and older, ranging from a 17% to 29% reduction overall.
Because of their results, the researchers concluded that high-dose vaccination was associated with lower power-influenza mortality among older adults with breakthrough influenza, even during seasons when antigenically drifted H3N2 circulated. Antigenic drift consists of small changes or mutations in the genes of the influenza virus, which can lead to changes in the surface proteins of the virus. Flu vaccines are designed to target one or more surface proteins, so depending on antigenic drifts and strains, vaccines will target certain things each year.
CDC Vaccination Recommendations for People of All Ages
The CDC’s vaccination recommendations consist of a variety of approved ages, vaccine types and dosage volumes. Considering the recent study and its subsequent findings, for example, the CDC recommends the Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent or the Fluad Quadrivalent in individuals ages 65 and above. The Centers have recommendations for children that are over 6 months old, children ranging from 6 to 35-months-old, individuals over 18, and more. To learn more about the CDC’s recommendations, you can visit: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/acip/summary/summary-recommendations.htm#recommend. Because the recommendations vary based on age, dosage, medical conditions and more, it is advisable to make an appointment with a trusted healthcare professional to discuss which vaccination is right for you and your loved ones.
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