Not all flu shots are created equally, and it’s especially important for seniors to get the right kind, according to a federal advisory board.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted this week to recommend that people age 65 and older get one of three particular influenza vaccines.
This committee is responsible for making vaccine recommendations to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC notes that in recent years, it has not recommended any particular flu shot over another for any age group. But if the advisory committee’s new recommendation is approved by the CDC director, it will become official policy.
The committee based its recommendation on a review of studies that suggest that the three vaccines, which are higher-dose shots, are more effective than other flu vaccines for people age 65 and older.
The three vaccines are:
- Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent, an inactivated influenza vaccine approved for people age 65 and older. It contains four times more antigen than standard-dose inactivated flu vaccines. According to the CDC, the higher antigen dose is intended to give a better immune response to the vaccine and, as a result, better protection against influenza viruses.
- Fluad Quadrivalent, an adjuvanted inactivated vaccine approved for people age 65 and older. It has the same amount of antigen as other standard-dose inactivated flu vaccines, but also contains MF59 adjuvant, which is intended to give recipients a better immune response and thus better protection against the flu.
- Flublok Quadrivalent, a recombinant protein influenza vaccine approved for people age 18 and older. It’s made using different technology than the inactivated flu vaccines and contains three times as much antigen as standard-dose inactivated flu shots. As with Fluzone, the higher antigen dose is meant to give people age 65 and older a better immune response and thus better flu protection.
The word “quadrivalent” refers to the fact that such vaccines are designed to protect against four different strains of the influenza virus.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices did not recommend any of the three vaccines more highly than the others for people age 65 and older. It simply advised that those older adults get one of those three instead of other flu shots.
Nor did the committee recommend any particular flu shot for people under the age of 65.
According to the National Institute on Aging, the flu is more dangerous for older adults because the immune system weakens with age and because older people are more likely to have health conditions that increase their risk for complications from the flu.