NEW YORK — Americans 65 and older should get newer, souped-up flu vaccines because regular shots don’t provide them enough protection, a federal advisory panel said Wednesday.
The panel unanimously recommended certain flu vaccines that might offer more or longer protection for seniors, 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.
These recommendations are usually adopted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and serve as guidance for U.S. physicians and patients. This would be the first time the government has stated a flu vaccine preference for older adults.
U.S. officials currently say that all Americans 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine every season. Flu shots are less effective than common vaccines. However, they can be disappointing for seniors. Health officials say there is persuasive research indicating some of the new shots work better in older adults, especially at preventing flu-related hospitalizations. Studies are limited, though, and there’s little research comparing the three new versions.
“These influenza vaccines are better but are not yet the home run that we would love to have,” said panel member Dr. Helen Keipp Talbot of Vanderbilt University,
The new shots have caught on. About 80% of Medicare beneficiaries get the souped-up vaccines each year, mostly the high-dose one, officials said. The new versions can cost roughly three times more than standard flu shots, but they are covered by insurance programs.
Panel members said seniors should get regular flu shots if the newer ones aren’t available.
CDC also reported Wednesday that the flu vaccine did not work well in this winter’s flu season. This is because most flu-related illnesses were due to a strain of flu that vaccines have historically done a poor job against. It was 35% effective at preventing severe flu symptoms that required a visit to a doctor. It was about 44% effective in children, and lower in adults.
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