October 7, 2011

October 7, 2011
Which Flu Vaccine Will You Choose?

Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Friday and we have almost made it through another work week. I hope you have had a safe and great week so far. It has been another busy one for Dab the AIDS Bear and me.

Recently while visiting my infectious disease doctor, I had my yearly flu shot. I get one every year especially being a long term HIV/AIDS survivor. Do you get a flu shot and if so which one? Oh, you did not know there is more than one I see. So let me fill you in on the options.

It is time to get your flu shot, say health experts, and this year two new forms of vaccine are available.

Those 18 to 64 who are squeamish about shots can opt for a vaccine that uses a tiny needle to deliver immune boosting vaccine into the skin, rather than into the muscle like the standard shot. Also, people 65 and older can get a high dose version, which should give better protection against the flu. Both new flu shots may come to occupy a special niche in the arsenal against influenza.

As for the nasal spray flu vaccine that was first introduced in 2003, it is a weakened live vaccine recommended only for those ages 2 to 49; those 50 and older should not get it.

Although an annual flu shot for older people has long been a mainstay of US public health policy, the last several years have brought increasing debate among experts about just how effective the vaccine is in older people.

Research has suggested that getting the shot decreases an older person's chances of being hospitalized for flu or pneumonia, and of dying. But studies also make clear that the vaccine doesn't always protect older men and women against the flu.

That is partly because the vaccine works by stimulating the body's own immune reaction and the aging immune system tends to mount a weaker protective response.

High dose may give more protection

Fluzone High Dose, launched during last year's flu season, is meant to address this problem. The vaccine contains four times the immune triggering viral proteins as the regular shot. In early studies, it triggered a much stronger immune response in older people than the standard dose.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not recommended the high dose shot over the standard vaccine, preferring to wait for the results of research looking at whether greater antibody response translates into fewer people getting sick with the flu.

But the higher dose is likely to impart stronger protection. It also poses no special safety concerns, although side effects like soreness at the injection site are more pronounced.

At a list price of $25, Fluzone High-Dose is costlier than the standard vaccine, which goes for around $11. Both, however, are covered by Medicare part B with no copayment. There are ample supplies of the vaccines this year, according to the CDC.

So now you know the rest of the story when you go to get your flu shot. Hope this information helped.

Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab