Why You Need A Flu Vaccine In 2021
Experts are expecting the worst from the 2021-2022 flu season. Flu rates were unusually low last winter, in large part because most people were wearing masks, social distancing, and staying home when feeling sick to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic from getting any worse. But with many people returning to society, and a good portion of them without masks, the flu season could come back with a vengeance this season. The early and strong return of RSV is one sign of this.
Without exposure to the flu last year, people may be more vulnerable than usual this season. Because of this, its crucial to get your flu shot.
If youve taken steps to prevent your kid from getting the coronavirus, youd be hypocritical not to do the same for the flu. So far, 655 children aged 17 and below have died from COVID in 2020 and 2021 combined, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . In comparison, 199 kids were reported to the CDC to have died from flu during the 2018-2019 flu season alone, and statistical modelling suggests that 434 children may have actually died from the flu that season.
So if you worried at all about your kids during the pandemic, you should make sure they get the flu shot. You should get it too, because the flu kills thousands of adults aged 18-49 each year and sends tens of thousands to the hospital . Theres very little point in avoiding getting COVID during a global pandemic just to get knocked out by the seasonal flu.
People 65 Years And Older Enhanced Quadrivalent Vaccine
Vaccination is particularly important for people in this age group as they are at high risk of complications from influenza and have the highest influenza-associated death rates each year.
The quadrivalent influenza vaccine Fluad Quad®is provided for people aged 65 years and older. It is an adjuvanted vaccine which is a standard dose flu vaccine with an added adjuvant to help create a stronger immune response to the vaccination. The 2022 vaccine contains the same components as the vaccine provided for other age groups but has the benefit of inducing a greater immune response in older people.
The enhanced quadrivalent influenza vaccine is the best form of protection against flu for older Queenslanders for the following reasons:
- Older people do not respond as well to standard influenza vaccine as the immune system response decreases with age.
- The enhanced vaccine is designed specifically to increase the immune system’s response to the vaccine, especially against the influenza A/H3N2 strain which is more common and severe in people aged 65 years and older.
Why Do We Need The Flu Vaccine Every Year
Flu vaccines have an excellent safety record. They are the best protection we have against an unpredictable virus which can cause severe illness and deaths each year among at-risk groups. It is important to have a flu vaccine every year because the flu virus is very variable and changes over time. Each year there are different strains around, and a new vaccine has to be prepared to deal with them. Vaccination from previous years is not likely to protect people against current strains of flu.
Each years flu vaccine is made to give the best protection against the strains of flu that are expected to circulate in the coming season. The trivalent vaccine protects against three of the flu virus strains which are most likely to be around. The quadrivalent vaccine protects against four flu virus strains. However, decisions about what to put in the flu vaccine have to be made six months before the flu season starts.
Every February in the Northern Hemisphere, the World Health Organization reviews the types of flu that have been circulating in all parts of the world and chooses the ones which will go into the vaccine for the following autumn. This allows time for the vaccine to be made but it also gives the flu virus time to change before vaccination starts in the autumn. This means that sometimes the flu vaccine may not be a good match for all the strains of flu that are circulating.
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Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Adults And Seniors
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people get additional free annual influenza vaccines and pneumococcal vaccine at 50 years of age through the National Immunisation Program.
Please see your doctor for advice on what you may need.
Generally, adults wont need boosters. We recommend you talk to your doctor if you are not sure:
- if you have had all the recommended vaccines
- if may need boosters
- if someone in your care may need additional vaccines or boosters.
Please note that the National Immunisation Program does not cover adults and seniors for missed or catch-up vaccines. You can buy additional vaccines privately when you need to.
Refugees and other humanitarian entrants of any age can get National Immunisation Program vaccines for free. This is if they did not receive the vaccines in childhood.
Check the National Immunisation Program schedule and talk to your doctor or immunisation provider if you have not had all the recommended childhood vaccinations.
What If The High
Manufacturers have increased flu shot production to meet the high demand for the 2020-2021 season. According to the CDC, between 188 million and 200 million doses will be distributed. All vaccines will be quadrivalent , most will be thimerosal-free or thimerosal-reduced vaccines and about 18% of flu vaccines will be free of eggs.
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Over 65 You Have A Choice Of Flu Vaccines
- Health Tips
When it comes to influenza shots, older adults have an extra option
In addition to the regular-dose influenza vaccine, people 65 and older have the option of being vaccinated with a high-dose vaccine made to bring about a stronger immune response. This stronger formulation was developed because peoples immune systems weaken as they age, making older adults more likely to catch the flu. Aging also lowers the bodys ability to have a strong immune response after getting the flu vaccine.
Safety And Side Effects
The inactivated flu vaccine does not contain the live virus and cannot cause flu. Flu vaccines have a very good safety record. The most commonly reported side effects of flu vaccines are:
- pain, swelling, bruising, hardness or redness at the injection site
- slightly raised temperature
- feeling generally unwell
A higher rate of these common side effects has been reported with Fluad, an adjuvanted trivalent vaccine which was recommended for people aged 65 and over in previous years. This year, Fluad Tetra is being offered to people aged over 65, which also uses an adjuvant. Side effects usually last 1-2 days.
There are several different makes of flu vaccine available each year. For more information on side effects, ask for the Patient Information Leaflet for the vaccine you are offered. Additional information about vaccine side effects, anaphylaxis and adverse reactions can be found here.
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Summary Of Information Contained In This Naci Statement
The following highlights key information for immunization providers. Please refer to the remainder of the Statement for details.
Streptococcus pneumoniae is a bacterium that can cause many types of diseases including invasive pneumococcal disease , and community-acquired pneumonia .
For the prevention of diseases caused by S. pneumoniae in adults, two types of vaccines are available in Canada: pneumococcal 23-valent polysaccharide vaccine containing 23 pneumococcal serotypes and pneumococcal 13-valent conjugate vaccine containing 13 pneumococcal serotypes.
NACI has been tasked with providing a recommendation from a public health perspective on the use of pneumococcal vaccines in adults who are 65 years of age and older, following the implementation of routine childhood pneumococcal vaccine programs in Canada.
Information in this statement is intended for provinces and territories making decisions for publicly funded, routine, immunization programs for adults who are 65 years of age and older without risk factors increasing their risk of IPD. These recommendations supplement the recent NACI recommendations on this topic that were issued for individual-level decision making in 2016.
Senior Flu Shot Side Effects
The senior flu shot is considered safe, but it may cause mild side effects related to inflammation and the bodys immune response. During the week after getting the vaccine, seniors may experience the following symptoms:
- Soreness, tenderness, redness, or swelling at the injection site
- Headache or muscle aches
According to the CDC, you should check with the doctor before getting your loved one a senior flu shot if they have one of the following conditions or reactions:
- An allergy to any of the vaccine ingredients, other than eggs
- A serious auto-immune disorder, e.g., Guillain-Barre syndrome
- A fever
- An allergic reaction to the flu shot in the past
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Eligibility For 2022 Season Influenza Vaccines
Influenza vaccines are funded under the National Immunisation Program for the following groups due to their increased risk of complications from influenza:
- all children from 6 months to less than 5 years of age
- all adults aged 65 years and older
- pregnant women
- all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 6 months and over
- individuals aged 6 months and older with medical conditions which increase the risk of influenza disease complications .
All other individuals not included in the categories above can purchase the vaccine from their doctor.
In 2022, all funded influenza vaccines available will be quadrivalent vaccines including the adjuvanted influenza vaccine for adults aged 65 years and older.
Only one government-funded influenza vaccine is available for eligible people each year, with the exception of eligible children up to 9 years of age receiving an influenza vaccine for the first time. These children require and are funded for 2 doses, 4 weeks apart.
Age restrictions apply to all vaccine brands .
Who Can Receive Fluzone High
In the United States, Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent is licensed only for people 65 years and older. Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent is not recommended for people with a history of severe allergic reaction to the vaccine or to ingredients other than eggs. Information about vaccine ingredients is located in package inserts from each manufacturer.
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Types Of Flu Shots For Seniors
There are two types of flu vaccines that the CDC recommends for people over 65:
You can get both the high-dose and adjuvanted flu vaccines at your doctor’s office, but you can also usually find the high dose vaccine at pharmacy clinics like CVS.
There haven’t been any studies comparing the high-dose and adjuvanted flu vaccines, and the CDC doesn’t state any preference about which vaccine to use. However, some doctors may prefer the high-dose vaccine because it has been in use since 2009, while the adjuvanted vaccine came out more recently in 2015.
Can I Get The Flu Vaccine If I Have A Latex Allergy
Influenza vaccines used in Australia dont contain latex and are safe for people with a latex allergy or sensitivity. While the product information for Fluarix Tetra and Fluad Quad state that some presentations of the vaccine cannot be considered latex-free, these presentations are actually not supplied in Australia.
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People At High Risk Of Complications From The Flu
- people with health conditions, such as:
- cancer and other immune compromising conditions
- kidney disease
- neurological or neurodevelopmental conditions
- children up to 18 years of age undergoing treatment for long periods with acetylsalicylic acid
Administering Flu Vaccine During The Covid
Curbside and drive-through vaccination clinics may provide the best option for staff and patient safety during the COVID-19 pandemic in communities with high transmission. Read CDCs guidance on drive-through vaccination clinics.
No. Flu vaccination should be deferred for people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, whether or not they have symptoms, until they have met the criteria to discontinue their isolation. While mild illness is not a contraindication to flu vaccination, vaccination visits for these people should be postponed to avoid exposing healthcare personnel and other patients to the virus that causes COVID-19. When scheduling or confirming appointments for flu vaccination, patients should be instructed to notify the health care professionals office or clinic in advance if they currently have or develop any symptoms of COVID-19.
Flu vaccination should be deferred until a patient is no longer acutely ill. This may be different for patients who are already being cared for in a medical setting than it is for patients who are isolating at home. In a medical setting, the timing for vaccination is a matter of clinical discretion. In general, patients who are isolating at home should wait until they meet criteria for leaving isolation to come to a vaccination setting in order to avoid spreading COVID-19 to others. CDC has guidance for when people can be around others after having COVID-19.
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Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine
Children 2-17 years of age who are eligible for an influenza vaccine can receive FluMist® Quadrivalent by nasal spray.
The nasal spray vaccine will be available at health units, some pharmacies and some doctors’ offices. Pharmacists will be able to give the nasal spray flu vaccine to children 2 years of age and older. The Influenza Clinic locator will list if a nasal spray vaccine is available at that clinic. Call ahead to confirm. The nasal spray vaccine is not approved for use in those younger than 2 years of age and they should receive their influenza vaccine by needle.
Who Should Have The Flu Shot
The Australian Government recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months has a flu vaccination every year.
Its difficult to predict who will catch influenza , or who will become seriously ill from it. The flu can require hospitalisation and can even be fatal.
Getting vaccinated against the flu helps protect both you and the people around you. Its particularly important to protect vulnerable people in the community who cant be vaccinated, such as babies who are younger than 6 months and adults with low immunity.
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How Serious Is Influenza
Influenza reduces the body’s ability to fight other infections. Bacterial pneumonia, which is an infection of the lungs, is the most common complication from influenza, especially in elderly people. Influenza can also lead to more complications for people who have heart, lung or other health conditions. These complications can sometimes be fatal.
Everyone 6 Months And Older Should Get The Flu Shot
The flu shot is your best defence against the flu. The flu shot is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older.
It can save lives by:
- protecting you, if you’re exposed to the virus
- preventing you from getting very sick
- protecting people close to you:
- because you’re less likely to spread the virus
- who are at higher risk of serious flu complications if they get the flu
The flu shot wont protect you against COVID-19.
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What To Do If Your Older Parent Or Relative Is Unwilling Or Unable To Get Vaccinated
Now, what if your older parent wont, or cant, get a flu shot?
Some older adults just dont want to get it. Here are some things you can try:
- Ask them to clarify what their concerns are. Its important to start by listening, in order to understand what an older person believes about the flu and the flu shot.
- Provide information to dispel myths and misunderstandings. Sometimes all people need is a little of the right kind of information.
- Point out that it can benefit an older persons family members and neighbors. Getting a flu shot can reduce the risk that we pass the flu on to another person. People are sometimes more willing to take action to protect others than to protect their own health.
- Make sure they know they wont have to pay for the flu shot. If you get the shot from a provider who takes Medicare, it shouldnt cost anything.
- Offer to go together to get your flu shots. Sometimes it helps to make it a family outing.
There are also some older adults for whom its hard to get a flu shot, such as people who are homebound or have very limited transportation options.
If this is your situation, the main thing to do is encourage flu shots for family and others coming to the house. For older adults who dont get out much, their main source of exposure to influenza and other dangerous viruses will be from those who come to them.
Above all, dont panic if your older loved one cant or wont get a flu shot.
Which Influenza Vaccination Is Best For Older Adults
Looking at the list of available flu shots can be overwhelming. In looking at this years CDC table of available influenza vaccines, I counted eight options that are available for people aged 65 or older:
- 4 standard-dose quadrivalent inactivated vaccines
- 1 standard-dose quadrivalent inactivated vaccine manufactured with a newer cell culture-based technology
- 1 high-dose quadrivalent inactivated vaccine
- 1 standard-dose quadrivalent adjuvanted inactivated vaccine
- 1 quadrivalent recombinant vaccine
Only Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent and Fluad Quadrivalent carry an age indication specific to 65 years or older.
However, the CDC does not recommend any influenza vaccine over another, for adults aged 65 or older.
So if you are an older adult, or if youre trying to arrange a flu shot for an aging relative, which flu vaccine should you try to get?
My take is this: if you have a choice, go for one of the vaccines designed for older adults.
Why? Because we know that as people get older, their immune systems tend to respond less vigorously to immunization. And because research suggests that the high-dose flu shot generates higher antibody titers and has been associated with better influenza outcomes.
We do have more research and experience for Fluzone High-Dose than for Fluad, so unless you are enrolling in a clinical trial of Fluad, I would suggest going with the Fluzone High-Dose.
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