CDC panel recommends booster flu vaccine for older Americans

NEW YORK (AP) — Americans 65 and older should get an updated, boosted version of the flu vaccine because routine shots don’t provide them enough protection, a federal advisory panel said Wednesday.

The panel unanimously recommends certain flu vaccines that may provide more or longer protection in older adults with weakened immune systems that don’t respond well to conventional vaccines.

Options include: Fluzone high dose, Fluad with immune boosters, or Flublok made with insect cells instead of eggs.

The group’s recommendations are typically adopted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and become the government’s guidance to U.S. physicians and their patients. This will be the first time the government has indicated a flu vaccine preference for older adults.

U.S. officials currently say all Americans 6 months and older should get the flu shot every season.

Flu shots tend to be less effective than other common vaccines, but they tend to be particularly disappointing for older adults. Health officials say convincing research shows that some of the new vaccines work better in older adults, especially when it comes to preventing flu-related hospitalizations. However, research is limited, and few studies have compared the three new versions.

“These flu shots are better, but they’re not the home run we’d like to have,” said Vanderbilt University team member Dr. Helen Keipp Talbot.

New lenses have caught on. About 80 percent of Medicare beneficiaries receive booster vaccines each year, most of them high-dose vaccines, officials said. The new versions cost about three times as much as the standard flu shot, but they are covered by insurance plans.

If no new vaccine is available, older adults should get regular flu shots, panelists said.

Also on Wednesday, CDC officials reported that the flu shot wasn’t as good over the past winter, when most illnesses were caused by strains of the flu virus, which traditionally have been relatively poor at preventing. The vaccine is 35 percent effective at preventing flu symptoms severe enough to require a doctor’s visit. It is 44% effective in children and less effective in adults.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Division was supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Division of Science Education. The Associated Press is solely responsible for all content.

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