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What is the High Dose Flu Vaccine?

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Updated August 24, 2010

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: What is the High Dose Flu Vaccine?
You may have heard of a flu vaccine made specifically for older adults. It is a high dose flu vaccine, known as Fluzone High-Dose.
Answer:

Who can get the high dose flu vaccine?

Fluzone High Dose has been designed for adults age 65 and older.

How is it different than the regular flu shot?

Like the regular flu shot, the high dose flu vaccine is a shot made from three different strains of influenza. However, the high dose flu vaccine contains four times more antigen than the regular flu shot. The antigen is the part of the vaccine that prompts the body to create antibodies, which fight off the flu virus.

Why might the high dose flu vaccine be better for some people?

Adults over age 65 are at higher risk for complications from the flu than younger people. It also becomes more difficult for the body to develop a strong immune response to vaccines as we get older. This vaccine was developed in hopes that the stronger doses of antigen would provide better protection against the flu virus for this group of adults.

So far, studies have shown that the high dose flu vaccine does create a stronger immune response in adults over age 65 (as measured by antibody levels) than the regular flu shot. Further studies are being conducted to determine whether or not this stronger immune response actually provides greater protection from the flu virus itself.

The CDC does not recommend one type of flu shot over another for adults over the age of 65. You should speak to your health care provider to determine which vaccine is right for you.

What are the side effects?

Side effects of the high dose flu vaccine were similar to those seen with the regular flu shot, but were seen more frequently. The most common side effects include:

  • Pain
  • Redness and swelling at injection site
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Fever
  • Malaise or fatigue (feeling tired)

Who should not get the high dose flu vaccine?

Like the regular flu shot, those with a severe allergy to eggs or other flu vaccines should not get the high dose flu vaccine.

Source:

"Questions & Answers: Fluzone High-Dose Seasonal Influenza Vaccine." Seasonal Influenza 30 April 10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 17 Aug 10.

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