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Wednesday October 1, 2014

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

Vaccination Options Available this Flu Season

I understand that there are several types of flu vaccines being offered this flu season. What can you tell me about them?

Depending on your health, age and preference there are a number of flu shots available this flu season, along with two vaccinations for pneumonia that you should consider as well.

Flu Shots Options

Just as they do every year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a seasonal flu shot to almost everyone, but it is especially important for seniors who are at higher risk of developing serious flu-related complications. The flu puts more than 200,000 people in the hospital each year and kills around 24,000 people annually – 90% of whom are seniors. Below are several flu shot options available this year.

Standard (trivalent) Flu Shot: This tried-and-true shot has been around for more than 30 years and protects against three strains of influenza. This year’s version protects against the two common A strains (H1N1 and H3N2) and one influenza B virus.

Quadrivalent Flu Shot: This vaccine, which was introduced last year, protects against four types of influenza. It protects against the same three strains as the standard flu shot, plus an additional B-strain virus.

High-Dose Flu Shot (Fluzone High-Dose): Designed specifically for seniors age 65 and older, this vaccine has four times the amount of antigen as a regular flu shot. The increased antigen creates a stronger immune response for better protection. However, be aware that the high-dose option may also be more likely to cause side effects, including headache, muscle aches and fever.

Intradermal Flu Shot: If you don’t like needles, the intradermal shot is a nice option. This shot uses a 1/16-inch long micro-needle to inject the vaccine just under the skin rather than deeper in the muscle like standard flu shots. This trivalent vaccine is recommended only to those ages 18 to 64.

To locate a vaccination site that offers these flu shots, visit vaccines.gov and type in your ZIP code. If you are a Medicare beneficiary, Part B will cover 100% of the costs of any flu shot, as long as your doctor, health clinic or pharmacy agrees not to charge you more than Medicare pays. Private health insurers are also required to cover standard flu shots; however, you’ll need to check with your provider to see if they cover the other vaccination options.

Pneumonia Vaccines

The other important vaccinations the CDC recommends to seniors, especially this time of year, are the pneumococcal vaccines for pneumonia. An estimated 900,000 people in the U.S. get pneumococcal pneumonia each year and it kills around 5,000 of those infected.

This year, the CDC is recommending that all seniors 65 or older get two separate vaccines. The vaccines are Prevnar 13 and Pneumovax 23. Previously, only Pneumovax 23 was recommended for seniors.

Both vaccines, which are administered just once, work in different ways to provide maximum protection.

If you haven’t yet received any pneumococcal vaccine you should get the Prevnar 13 first, followed by Pneumovax 23 six to 12 months later. But, if you’ve already been vaccinated with Pneumovax 23 you should get Prevnar 13 at least one year later.

Medicare currently covers only one pneumococcal vaccine per older adult. If you’re paying out of pocket, you can expect to pay around $50 to $85 for Pneumovax 23 and around $120 to $150 for the Prevnar 13.

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 September 26, 2014
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