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Enhanced flu shots work better for seniors

Older women smiling.

Sept. 1, 2022—As flu season approaches, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is offering new vaccine recommendations for people ages 65 and older.

CDC says people in this age group should get a specific type of flu shot—either a higher dose or an adjuvanted flu vaccine—that may offer better protection.

However, CDC notes that, if these vaccines aren't available, a standard flu shot is OK.

Why special flu shots?

Compared to younger adults, seniors are at increased risk for severe flu complications, like pneumonia, which can boost the risk of having to be hospitalized or even dying. Because the immune system weakens with age, standard flu vaccines may not work as well in seniors as they do in younger people. To counter this risk, scientists have designed stronger formulations of flu shots for seniors. The following shots may be more effective than standard flu vaccines at preventing the flu in this age group, studies show:

  • Higher-dose flu vaccine. These vaccines (brand name Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent) contain more antigen, a substance that causes the body to make an immune response.
  • Adjuvanted flu vaccine. These vaccines (brand name Fluad Quadrivalent adjuvanted) contain an adjuvant, an added ingredient that helps the body have a stronger immune response.
  • Egg-free vaccine. These vaccines (brand name Flublok Quadrivalent recombinant) also contain more antigen and are made without using eggs.

No matter which flu shot you choose, the main thing is to get vaccinated every year, ideally in the fall, before flu season starts. That way, you will be protected when the flu starts going around. If you get a flu shot and you still get the flu, your illness will likely be less severe.

Like other flu vaccines, flu shots for seniors are safe. People who get a flu shot sometimes have mild to moderate side effects, like a sore arm, a headache or muscle aches.

Talk to your doctor if you have questions about which flu vaccine is right for you.

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