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Sunday September 15, 2019

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

Which Flu Shot Is Right for You?

I've been reading that there are a bunch of different flu vaccines this flu season. Which flu shot is right for me?

It wasn't that long ago that if you wanted to protect yourself from the flu, you would simply get a flu shot. These days, however, there are numerous flu vaccine options to choose from and picking the right one may feel a bit overwhelming. To help you decide which flu vaccine is right for you, you need to consider your health, age and personal preferences.

Flu Shot Options

Every year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone six months of age and older get a seasonal flu shot. This recommendation is especially important for seniors who are at higher risk of developing serious flu-related complications. Each year, the flu puts more than 200,000 people in the hospital and kills an average of 24,000 people. Eighty to ninety percent of those who die from flu-complications are seniors. Here is a summary of the different vaccine options available:

Standard flu vaccines: If you want to keep things basic, consider getting vaccinated with the standard (trivalent) flu shot, which has been around for more than 40 years and protects against three different strains of flu viruses. This year's version protects against two A strains (H1N1 and H3N2) and one influenza B virus.

Alternatively, for additional protection, you should consider the quadrivalent flu vaccine, which protects against four types of influenza — the same three strains as the standard trivalent flu shot, plus an additional B-strain virus.

Senior specific vaccines: If you are age 65 or older and want extra protection, you should consider the Fluzone High-Dose or FLUAD. The Fluzone High-Dose has four times the amount of antigen as a regular flu shot, while the FLUAD contains an added adjuvant ingredient called MF59. Both vaccines provide a stronger immune response for better protection.

Egg allergy vaccines: If you are allergic to eggs, your flu shot options are Flucelvax or FluBlok. Neither of these vaccines uses chicken eggs in their manufacturing process.

Fear of needle vaccines: If you are afraid of needles and between the ages of 18 and 64, your options are the Fluzone Intradermal or AFLURIA vaccine.

The Fluzone intradermal flu shot uses a tiny 1/16-inch long micro-needle to inject the vaccine just under the skin, rather than deeper in the muscle like a standard flu shot. The AFLURIA vaccine is administered by a jet injector, which is a medical device that uses a high-pressure, narrow stream of fluid to penetrate the skin instead of a needle.

You should also know that if you are a Medicare beneficiary, Part B covers all flu vaccinations. If you have private health insurance, you will need to check with your plan to see which vaccines are covered.

Pneumonia Vaccines

Other important vaccinations the CDC recommends to seniors, especially this time of year, are the pneumococcal vaccines for pneumonia. Around 1 million Americans are hospitalized with pneumonia each year and about 50,000 people die from it.

The CDC recommends that all seniors, age 65 or older, receive two vaccinations —Prevnar 13 and Pneumovax 23. Both vaccines, which are administered just once at different times, work in different ways to provide maximum protection.

If you have not received any pneumococcal vaccine, you should get the Prevnar 13 first, followed by Pneumovax 23 six to 12 months later. Medicare Part B covers both vaccines, if they are taken at least one year apart.

To locate a vaccination site that offers both flu and pneumonia shots, visit and type in your zip code.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published August 31, 2018

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