Influenza season is around the corner, beginning as early as October and peaking most commonly in January and February

All pregnant women should be immunized. High-dose influenza vaccine is available at our office locations for patients aged 65 and older.

Though these are the highest risk groups, everyone who is at least 6 months and older should receive a flu vaccine.

Patients can call to make appointments to receive the vaccine at any time.

While every flu season is different, and influenza infection can affect people differently, older people are at greater risk of adverse effects.

Over a period of 31 seasons between 1976 and 2007, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people, according to the CDC.

In the course of a regular flu season, about 90 percent of deaths occur in people 65 years and older.

An annual seasonal flu vaccine (either the flu shot or the nasal-spray flu vaccine) is the best way to reduce the chances that you will get seasonal flu and lessen the chance that you will spread it to others.  Pregnant women cannot take the nasal spray because it is a live virus. The injection does not have any live virus in it.

In addition, you can take everyday preventive steps like staying away from sick people and washing your hands to reduce the spread of germs. If you are sick with flu, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading influenza to others.

Flu vaccines (the flu shot and the nasal-spray flu vaccine (LAIV)) cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination.

The seasonal flu vaccine protects against three influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. Three kinds of influenza viruses commonly circulate among people today: influenza B viruses, influenza A (H1N1) viruses, and influenza A (H3N2) viruses.

Each year, one flu virus of each kind is used to produce seasonal influenza vaccine.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends high-dose flu vaccine for people aged 65 and older to increase their protection against the virus.

High-Dose vaccine contains four times the amount of antigen (the part of the vaccine that prompts the body to make antibody) contained in regular flu shots. The additional antigen is designed to create a stronger immune response (more antibody) in the person receiving the vaccine.

Because immune defenses weaken with age, older people are at greater risk of severe illness from influenza.

Aging also reduces the body’s ability to provide an effective immune response after influenza vaccine. Therefore, a higher dose of antigen in the vaccine is designed to give older people an improved immune response, and better protection against flu.

Clinical trials comparing regular Fluzone vaccine to Fluzone High-Dose vaccine, both of which are manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur Inc., among persons aged 65 years or older indicate that a stronger immune response (i.e., higher antibody levels) occurs after vaccination with high-dose vaccine.

However, whether the improved immune response leads to greater protection against influenza after vaccination is unknown. An ongoing study designed to determine the effectiveness of Fluzone High-Dose in preventing illness from influenza compared to Fluzone is expected to be completed in 2014-2015.

High-dose flu vaccine is considered just as safe as regular flu vaccines, though some adverse effects (which are also reported after regular flu vaccines) were reported more frequently after vaccination with Fluzone High-Dose.

The most common adverse effects experienced during clinical studies were mild and temporary, and included pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, headache, muscle aches, fever and malaise. Most people had minimal or no adverse effects after receiving the Fluzone High-Dose vaccine.

As with all flu vaccines, Fluzone High-Dose is not recommended for people who have had a severe reaction to the flu vaccine in the past.

CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommend flu vaccination as the first and most important step in protecting against the flu. However, neither CDC nor ACIP has expressed a preference for one vaccine over another at this time.

There are three different flu shots available:

  • A regular flu shot approved for people ages 6 months and older
  • A high-dose flu shot approved for people 65 and older, and
  • An intradermal flu shot approved for people 18 to 64 years of age.

The viruses in the vaccine can change each year based on international surveillance and scientists’ estimations about which types and strains of viruses will circulate in a given year.

Manufacturers have reported that they will produce between 135 million and 139 million doses of influenza vaccine for use in the United States during the 2013-2014 influenza season.

Most of the flu vaccine offered for the 2013-2014 season will protect against three different virus strains. Some seasonal flu vaccines will be formulated to protect against four flu viruses.

All nasal spray vaccines are expected to be quadrivalent (offer protection against four strains), however, this makes up only a small portion of total vaccine availability.

Three kinds of influenza viruses commonly circulate today: Influenza A (H1N1) viruses, influenza A (H3N2) viruses, and influenza B viruses. Each year, one flu virus of each kind is used to produce seasonal influenza vaccine.

The 2013-2014 trivalent influenza vaccine is made from the following three viruses, according to the CDC:

  • an A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus;
  • an A(H3N2) virus antigenically like the cell-propagated prototype virus A/Victoria/361/2011;
  • a B/Massachusetts/2/2012-like virus.

It is recommended that quadrivalent vaccines containing two influenza B viruses contain the above three viruses and a B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus.

While it’s not possible to predict with certainty which flu viruses will predominate during a given season, antibodies made in response to vaccination with one flu virus can sometimes provide protection against different but related viruses.

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