Which FLU SHOT is right for you?
Updated: Sep 18
One manufacturer is offering a new vaccine this year specially designed to provide better protection to seniors. However, experts said the benefits don’t justify the price.
Fluzone High-Dose, manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur, contains four times the amount of antigens compared to a regular flu shot and protects against common flu strains. Approved ONLY for people 65 and older, the idea is that the higher dose will help seniors mount a better immune response and be better equipped to fight off the flu. The shot, which first came on the market in 2016, is now covered for those 65 and older who live in long-term care homes in B.C.
Some infectious disease experts say the vaccine isn’t effective enough to justify public coverage, especially since it costs several times more than a regular flu shot. But in B.C., health officials have declined to cover the new high-dose flu shot for the general public, citing the high cost of the vaccine and what experts describe as lack of evidence Fluzone High-Dose is much better than the standard dose. The evidence for the high-dose shot “indicates only a small added benefit for seniors, compared to the substantially increased price,” per Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s provincial health officer.
According to the research, about 200 seniors would have to be vaccinated with the high-dose shot to prevent one case of influenza, Dr. Henry wrote. About 4,000 seniors would have to be vaccinated with the new shot to prevent one flu-related hospitalization. The divergent policies are part of a continuing debate over the targeted flu shot that experts say has major implications for future influenza vaccination programs – and the amount of money it costs to deliver them.
Seniors tend to be more vulnerable to complications from the flu because their immune systems may be weaker than those of younger people. Health Canada says 3,500 people die from the flu every year and 12,200 are hospitalized, with many of those affected being 65 and older. Research also shows the regular flu shot may not be as effective in older age groups.
Some experts said the benefits don’t justify the price, but other experts say there’s “clear evidence” the high-dose vaccine is superior.
For those who are concerned to take all the steps necessary to stay healthy this year, the benefits of the high-dose vaccine may out-weight the costs above the standard, publicly- funded flu vaccine. The high-dose vaccine is available at Columbia Street Pharmacy for a charge for those interested in maximizing their immunity.
Adapted from "Experts say high-dose flu vaccine’s cost outweighs the benefits", Global News, 10/29/18