New High-Dose Flu Shot Protects Seniors

November 18, 2010 139 comments

There’s a new flu shot in town — one that’s four times as strong as its predecessor and is targeted at protecting senior citizens.

Why is the new shot so powerful?

Scientists and doctors believe that a high-dose flu vaccine will jump-start senior citizens’ immune response and provide them better protection from the virus.

Researchers have discovered that, as the body ages, the immune system doesn’t respond as much as it needs to to the typical vaccination. By quadrupling the number of antigens, doctors hope that the new shot’s immune boost will result in fewer deaths and serious cases of flu among the elderly.

Marge obviously doesn’t enjoy needles very much.

Although the shot is new — and some doctors are unsure whether to recommend it — the medical team at Centra Care is urging senior citizens to try the new high-dose vaccination. They’re claiming it could save lives.

“This is the first year it’s available,” said Dr. Tim Hendrix, medical director at Centra Care, Florida Hospital’s chain of urgent-care centers. “We anticipate it will give a better response than the typical flu shot. The idea is to maximize protection for older people.”

The FDA approved the new high-dose flu vaccine in April, but it is being rolled out this fall for the current flu season. Produced by Sanofi Pasteur, the new high-dose vaccine contains the same inactivated virus as the standard seasonal vaccine, but in a larger dose. The larger dose also comes with a heftier price tag.

The FDA reported that the most common side effects were mild and temporary and included pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, as well as headache, muscle aches, fever and malaise. Most patients, the FDA said, had minimal or no adverse side effects after receiving the high-dose shot.

“With any vaccine, you can have pain, redness, swelling, even low-grade fever and aching,” said Dr. Mobeen Rathore, a vaccinologist and infectious disease expert at the University of Florida. “And even though the reactions to the high-dose vaccine were higher, they were deemed acceptable.”

Of course, “acceptable” may be in the eye of the beholder, he added.

So how do you know if you should get the high-dose vaccine or the standard flu shot? Rathore suggests seniors recall how they’ve reacted to previous flu shots.

“If you’re somebody who has a reaction from the low-dose vaccine, then I would stick with the low-dose. But if you’ve been taking the vaccine for years and have no reaction, get the high-dose vaccine. Or if there’s nothing else available except the high-dose vaccine, get the high dose,” Rathore said. “The most important thing is: Get the vaccine. It doesn’t matter which one.”

Not everyone in the medical community happens to be a fan of the new flu shot. Dr. Bradley Bender, chief of staff for the North Florida-South Georgia Veterans Affairs health system, notes that the studies on the new vaccine have shown that seniors’ immune systems reacted better to the new high-dose flu shot, but no studies have shown that it’s more effective at preventing the flu.

In addition, he notes that the better immune response comes at a cost. “There are higher rates of adverse events from it, though mostly this is more sore arms and muscle aches,” Bender said. “It is also about twice as expensive.

At Centra Care, the high-dose flu shot costs $32, while the cost of the low-dose or standard flu shot is $20. There is no charge for patients with Medicare Part B, Centra Care officials said.

Because neither the government’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices nor the CDC has expressed a preference for which vaccine should be used, most clinicians must decide on their own.

“At the VA, we are offering the low-dose vaccine, but have high-dose available if a patient requests it. We let them know that it is anticipated to hurt more if they get it,” Bender said.

With the number of flu cases starting to increase in Central Florida — where the flu typically peaks in February — doctors are urging everyone to get a flu shot no matter what its strength.

Those who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs or who have had a severe reaction to flu vaccines in the past should not get a flu shot, according to the CDC.

“Obviously, the primary goal is to vaccinate people who are at high-risk. But everybody else should get the vaccine, too — when there aren’t shortages,” Hendrix said.

“There are really two reasons: First, the flu will take you out of work for a week. And second, if you have the flu, you’re going to spread it to other people — and they may be at high risk. The responsible thing to do is get the flu shot.”

Paying For the Poor’s Flu Shots

October 21, 2010 4 comments

According to a study conducted by Dr. Byung-Kwang Yoo of the University of Rochester Medical Center, physicians are being paid more money to administer necessary vaccinations to children of less wealthy families. According to the survey, the number of poor children receiving the annual flu shot could see a 1 percent increase for every additional dollar provided to doctors via the Government.

While Medicaid is taking care of these young children, reimbursement rates are really the discussion on hand here. The reimbursement rates provided to doctors vary from state to state. Colorado is around $2 while Hawaii is almost at $18. The nationwide average is set at $9.

A young child gets her annual flu shot paid for.

What do you guys think? Should poor children be allowed to get the flu shot every year? Is this system backwards? Leave your comments below.

Flu Shots Are a Must For Pregnant Women

September 17, 2010 2 comments

We just read a little article on the universal request for pregnant women to protect themselves from the flu. As a provider of vaccinations, we were notified of this a few weeks ago and quickly felt the need to help get the word out about it.

This year may not seem as scary as the last in regards to the flu, but the requests to all pregnant women still stand. Any type of sickness during pregnancy can be a very bad thing and yield unfortunate results if untreated, so that’s why these recent requests should not be so surprising.

If you or someone you know is pregnant right now, have them contact us right away so that we can make sure they are protected from any flu-like dangers out there.

All you have to do is call us at Passport Health Orlando at:  407.902.9783

We look forward to taking care of you.

If you’re interested in reading the article that we initially read, you can find it here.

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