Flu and The Elderly

This flu season has been one of the most alarming and intense outbreaks since 2009. News reports in various states covered the number of hospitalizations and deaths from the flu this year. The worry was intensified by individuals on social media and word-of-mouth among family members, friends, coworkers, and peers. In short, it was scary, especially for seniors.

What is the flu?

Influenza, also known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory condition caused by two main types of influenza virus: type A and type B. There are also type C and type D, but they either do not affect humans or are relatively mild. Influenza type A can be broken down into strains, such as H1N1 and H3N2. Vaccinations are created for type A and type B viruses to help protect against the flu. Options are also available specifically for seniors.

Flu Symptoms and Complications

Seniors and other age groups typically experience the same symptoms. Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Fatigue

Although the symptoms are similar, seniors are more at risk of flu-related complications like pneumonia and dehydration. Complications are worsened by existing chronic conditions, which is why seniors are more at risk of hospitalization and death. Getting the annual flu vaccine can prevent the flu and make a difference for seniors during flu season.

Flu Vaccinations For Seniors

Seniors that are 65 years of age and older are more at risk of having complications from the flu due to the immune system  becoming weaker with age. A high dose vaccine and an adjuvanted vaccine were developed to create a stronger immune response to the illness based on this increased risk.

The “High Dose” Vaccine

Like the standard flu shot, Fluzone High Dose includes three flu strains. The strains are selected based on which ones are predicted to cause the flu in the forthcoming season. The difference with the high-dose flu vaccine, is that it contains four times as much flu antigen as the standard one. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that those who use this vaccine had 24 percent less flu infections than those who received the standard vaccine.

The Adjuvanted Vaccine

Like the standard and high dose vaccines, the adjuvanted vaccine (e.g. FLUAD)  also contains three flu strains in an effort to strengthen immunity. This vaccine, however, contains an adjuvant, which is an ingredient used to develop a stronger immune response to the vaccination. MF59 is the adjuvant used to enhance the the immune response in the FLUAD vaccine. Some studies have shown that FLUAD is much more effective in preventing the flu than those vaccines that are unadjuvanted.

Is the Adjuvanted Vaccine Better Than The High Dose?

Currently, there is no preferential flu vaccination for seniors. The most important thing is to protect yourself by getting vaccinated. The risk of getting the illness is reduced and symptoms are less severe if you do contract the illness. Caring People Inc. explains in greater detail the pros of cons of both the adjuvanted and high dose vaccine for seniors.