Ask the care expert ... about the high-dose flu vaccine

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Sherrie Dornberger, RNC, CDONA, FACDONA, executive director, NADONA
Sherrie Dornberger, RNC, CDONA, FACDONA, executive director, NADONA

We are training our staff, residents and family members on the annual flu vaccines. I hear that this year a high-dose vaccine is available. Does Fluzone High-Dose influenza vaccine work better?

Human immune defenses become weaker with age, which places older people at greater risk of severe illness from influenza. Also, aging decreases the body's ability to have a good immune response after getting the influenza vaccine. A higher dose of antigen in the vaccine is supposed to give older people a better immune response, and, therefore, better protection against flu. 

Data from clinical trials comparing Fluzone to Fluzone High-Dose among persons aged 65 years or older indicate that a stronger immune response occurs after vaccination with Fluzone High-Dose. An ongoing study designed to determine the effectiveness of Fluzone High-Dose compared to Fluzone is expected to be completed in the 2014-2015 range.

The safety profile of Fluzone High-Dose vaccine is similar to that of regular flu vaccines, although some adverse events were reported. The most common adverse events experienced during clinical studies were mild and temporary, and included pain; redness and swelling at the injection site; headache; muscle aches; fever and malaise. Most people had minimal or no adverse events after receiving the Fluzone High-Dose vaccine. 

Fluzone High-Dose is approved for use in people 65 years of age and older. As with all flu vaccines, it is not recommended for people who have had a previous severe reaction to the flu vaccine. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Advisory Committee on Immunization strongly advocate for vaccination, but have not expressed a preference for which one you use.