NEW YORK (AP) — Americans 65 and older should get the new, souped-up flu vaccine because routine shots don’t give them enough protection, a federal advisory panel said Wednesday.
The panel unanimously recommended certain influenza vaccines that may offer equivalent or better protection to seniors whose weakened immune systems do not respond well to conventional vaccines.
Options include: Fluzone High-Dose, Fluid with an immune booster, or Flublok, which is made from insect cells instead of chicken eggs.
The panel’s recommendations are typically adopted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and become government guidance for American physicians and their patients. This will be the first time the government has prioritized the flu vaccine for older adults.
US officials are currently saying all Americans 6 months and older should get the year-round flu vaccine.
Flu shots are less effective than other common vaccines, but they’ve often been particularly frustrating in the elderly. Health officials say compelling research suggests some of the newer shots work better in older adults, particularly at preventing flu-related hospitalizations. Studies are limited, however, and there is little research comparing the three newer versions.
“These influenza vaccines are better, but not yet the home runs that we would have liked,” said Dr. Helen Keep Talbot, Board Member at Vanderbilt University.
New shots have prevailed. Officials said about 80% of Medicare beneficiaries receive beefed-up vaccines each year, mostly those with higher doses. The new versions can cost about three times as much as traditional flu shots, but they are covered by insurance programs.
Panel members said seniors should get regular flu shots if new ones aren’t available.
Also on Wednesday, CDC officials reported that flu vaccines didn’t work well last winter, when most illnesses were caused by a strain of flu, which vaccines have traditionally done relatively poorly. The vaccine was 35% effective in preventing flu symptoms severe enough to require a doctor’s visit. It was about 44% less effective in children and less effective in adults.
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