The Flu is Back: Seniors Should Get Extra-strong Shots

Doctors have a message for vaccine-skeptical Americans: Don’t skip your flu vaccination this fall – and elders, request an extra-strength version.

Flu may be making a comeback after reaching historically low levels during the COVID-19 epidemic. The primary clue: Australia recently experienced a severe flu season.

While it is impossible to tell if the United States will be as heavily struck, “last year we were heading into flu season without knowing if flu was around or not.” “We know flu is back this year,” said Richard Webby, an influenza specialist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.

Starting with 6-month-old babies, annual flu shots are recommended. Flu is especially dangerous for people 65 and older, young children, pregnant women, and people with certain medical conditions, such as heart and lung disease.

Here’s what you should know:

SENSITIVE SHOTS FOR SENIORS

People’s immune systems weaken as they age, making standard flu vaccination less effective. This year, people aged 65 and up are encouraged to get a special type for added protection.

There are three options. Fluzone High-Dose and Flublok contain higher concentrations of the main anti-flu ingredient. Fluad Adjuvanted, on the other hand, has a regular dosage but contains a special ingredient that helps boost people’s immune response.

Seniors can inquire as to what type their doctor carries. However, the majority of flu vaccinations are administered in pharmacies, and some pharmacy websites, such as CVS, will automatically send customers to locations delivering senior doses if their birth date indicates they are eligible.

Webby suggested informing older relatives and acquaintances about the senior vaccinations in case they are not informed when they seek inoculation.

“At the very least, they should inquire, ‘Do you have the shots that are better for me?'” Webby stated. For this age range, “the bottom line is they work better.”

If a site is out of senior-targeted doses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting a regular flu shot rather than skipping vaccination.

All flu vaccines sold in the United States, including those for persons under the age of 65, are “quadrivalent,” which means they protect against four different flu viruses. Younger people have options as well, including needles for those with egg sensitivities and FluMist, a nasal spray version.

WHY ARE FLU EXPERTS ON HIGH ALERT?

According to Dr. Andrew Pekosz of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Australia recently experienced its worst flu season in five years, and what happens in the Southern Hemisphere winters often foreshadows what Northern countries might expect.

And people have largely abandoned the masking and distancing techniques that helped halt the spread of other respiratory diseases like the flu early in the pandemic.

“This poses a risk, particularly to young children who may have had little or no prior contact with influenza viruses before this season,” Pekosz warned.

“This year will be the first true influenza season since the pandemic,” said Dr. Jason Newland, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Washington University in St. Louis.

The Flu is Back: Seniors Should Get Extra-strong Shots

He said children’s hospitals are already witnessing an unusually early increase in other respiratory diseases, such as RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, and he is concerned that flu will strike sooner than normal as it did in Australia.

The CDC recommends getting a flu vaccine before the end of October, although it can be given at any time during flu season. Protection takes roughly two weeks to take effect.

This year, the United States anticipates 173 million to 183 million doses. And, yes, you can have a flu vaccination and a COVID-19 booster dose at the same time – one in each arm to reduce pain.

THE FUTURE OF FLU SHOTS

The manufacturers of the two most commonly used COVID-19 vaccines are now exploring flu shots made with the same technology. One explanation is that as influenza mutates, the recipes of so-called mRNA vaccines might be changed more quickly than the recipes of today’s flu shots, which are mostly generated by cultivating the influenza virus in chicken eggs.

Pfizer and its partner BioNTech are enrolling 25,000 healthy U.S. people to receive either an experimental or standard influenza shot this flu season to assess how effective the novel strategy is.

During the Southern Hemisphere’s flu season, rival Moderna tested their version on over 6,000 people in Australia, Argentina, and other nations and is expecting results.

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