US seniors should get newer flu vaccine, CDC panel says

The panel unanimously recommended certain flu vaccines that could provide greater or longer protection for seniors.

NEW YORK — Americans 65 and older should get newer, beefed-up flu vaccines because regular vaccinations don’t give them enough protection, a federal advisory panel said Wednesday.

The panel unanimously recommended certain flu vaccines that could offer more or longer protection to seniors whose weakened immune systems do not respond well to conventional vaccines.

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 typically adopted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and become government guidance for US physicians and their patients. This would be the first time the government has frontloaded a flu shot for older adults.

US officials currently say all Americans 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine each season.

Flu shots are typically less effective than other common vaccines, but they’ve often been particularly disappointing in the elderly. Health officials say there is compelling research to suggest some of the new shots are working better in older adults, particularly in preventing flu-related hospitalizations. Studies are limited, however, and there is little research comparing the three new versions.

“These influenza vaccines are better, but not yet the home run that we would like,” said panel member Dr. Helen Keipp Talbot of Vanderbilt University.

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

Panel members said seniors should get regular flu shots when 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 that vaccines have traditionally provided relatively poor protection against. The vaccine was 35% effective in preventing flu symptoms severe enough to require a doctor’s visit. It was about 44% effective in children and less so in adults. US seniors should get newer flu vaccine, CDC panel says

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