CDC panel recommends US seniors get souped-up flu vaccines

NEW YORK (AP) — Americans 65 and older should be getting newer, souped-up flu vaccines because regular injections don’t provide them with adequate protection, a federal advisory panel said Wednesday.

The panel unanimously recommended certain flu vaccines that could provide more or longer protection for seniors whose weakened immune systems do not respond as well to traditional injections.

Options include: Fluzone High-Dose, Fluad with an immune booster, or Flublok which is made with insect cells instead of chicken eggs.

The panel’s recommendations are usually adopted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and become the government’s guideline for U.S. physicians and their patients. This would be the government’s first preference for a flu vaccine for older adults.

U.S. officials are currently saying that all Americans 6 months and older should get a seasonal flu vaccine.

Flu shots are usually less effective than other common vaccinations, but they are often particularly disappointing in seniors. Health officials say there is compelling research indicating that some of the new injections work better in older adults, especially in preventing flu-related hospitalizations. However, studies are limited and there is little research comparing the three new versions.

“These flu vaccines are better, but aren’t quite the home run we’d like to have yet,” said panelist Dr. Helen Keipp Talbot of Vanderbilt University,

The new shots have caught on. About 80% of Medicare beneficiaries receive the ramped-up vaccines, usually the high-dose, each year, officials said. The new versions can cost about three times more than standard flu shots, but they are covered by insurance programs.

Panelists said seniors should get regular flu shots if the newer ones aren’t available.

Also on Wednesday, CDC officials reported that the flu vaccine didn’t work as well last winter, when most illnesses were caused by a strain of flu against which vaccines traditionally protect relatively poorly. The vaccine was 35% effective at preventing flu symptoms severe enough to require a doctor’s visit. It was about 44% effective in children and lower in adults.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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