What Is In The Influenza Vaccine
Information on specific ingredients included within individual influenza vaccines can be found on the label of the medicine, the Product Information and Consumer Medicine Information leaflets for each individual vaccine. You can ask your pharmacist for a copy or find it through our CMI database by searching the product’s name. The CMI provides the full list of ingredients for each product.
Additionally, information on medicines supplied in Australia, including ingredients, can be located by searching the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods either by product name or ARTG number.
Influenza vaccines available for the 2022 influenza season within Australia do not contain any thiomersal/mercury.
Formaldehyde is used in the early stages of manufacture of some influenza vaccines as an inactivation agent. The formaldehyde is removed in the latter stages of manufacture and the product is tested to ensure formaldehyde levels are below detectable limits before the final product can be released.
All influenza vaccines available this year are latex free. However, the possibility that the product may have come into contact with instruments which contain latex cannot be excluded. Patients who are extremely sensitive to latex should consult their doctor for advice.
Where Can Seniors Get A Flu Shot
Several locations offer senior flu shots, including doctors offices, local health departments, and pharmacies.
You may be worried about taking your senior relative to get a flu shot this year if COVID-19 is still spreading in your community. However, the CDC says its especially important for seniors and others who are at increased risk for flu complications to get vaccinated.
There are certain steps your loved one can take to stay safe when going to get the flu shot:
- Wear a mask to the vaccine appointment.
- If your loved one has a fever, hold off on vaccinating them until theyre feeling better.
- Wash hands frequently using soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
View CDC guidelines for more information on protecting yourself and senior relatives from the seasonal flu as well as COVID-19.
Who Can Have The Flu Vaccine
The flu vaccine is given free on the NHS to people who:
- are 50 and over
- have certain health conditions
- are pregnant
- are in long-stay residential care
- receive a carer’s allowance, or are the main carer for an older or disabled person who may be at risk if you get sick
- live with someone who is more likely to get infections
- frontline health or social care workers
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Immunizations Are Even More Important As We Age
As we age, the immune system declines in its ability to fight off infections, which makes people ages 65 and older more vulnerable to diseases like influenza, COVID-19, pneumonia, and shingles.
People of this age group are also at a higher risk for serious complications related to these diseases compared to younger populations. The flu in a 40-year-old is very different than in an 80-year-old.
According to our experts, while a 40-year-old might be in bed for a few days nursing the flu with rest, an 80-year-old is more likely to experience more serious symptoms that could lead to hospitalization, and in the most serious and unfortunate circumstances, can even be a cause of death.
These are five important vaccines to consider if you are age 65 or older:
New Flu Vaccine Available This Winter For Those Aged 65 And Over
A more effective flu vaccine is available this winter for those aged 65 and over, which could prevent deaths and reduce the burden on the NHS.
- 12 September 2018
Delegates at the Public Health England conference heard that a more effective flu vaccine for those aged 65 and over this winter has the potential to prevent deaths and significantly reduce the burden on the NHS.
The vaccine, available for the first time this year in the UK for those aged 65 and over, could reduce GP consultations by 30,000, hospitalisations by over 2,000 and prevent over 700 hospital deaths from flu in England, alleviating some of the health burden that seasonal flu places on the population, workplaces and the NHS.
The newly available adjuvanted vaccine is expected to significantly boost effectiveness by improving the bodys immune response to the vaccine. This is important because typically, older adults bodies do not respond as well to the flu vaccine due to their naturally weaker immune systems. Older adults are also more likely to suffer complications from flu.
The broader flu vaccination programme will also be improved by offering all eligible adults under 65, including pregnant women and those with long-term health conditions, the quadrivalent vaccine in injected form.
This protects against a total of four strains of flu two strains of flu A and two strains of flu B.
Professor Paul Cosford, Medical Director at PHE, said:
Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies said:
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How Much Better Are These Vaccines
Compared to the standard flu vaccine, the high-dose version has been shown to better stimulate the immune system of older users to make protective antibodies.
It has been shown to better reduce rates of flu infection in over-65s than the standard vaccine.
And, interestingly, it also seems to protect against pneumonia.
One common criticism of clinical trials is that they don’t include the types of people who are found in the “real world”.
But population-based observational studies suggest the high-dose vaccine is more protective than the standard-dose vaccine where H3N2 is the predominant circulating strain as it was last year.
What about the Fluad vaccine?
Compared to the standard vaccine, adjuvanted flu vaccine has been shown to better stimulate the immune system of older users to make protective antibodies.
Unlike the high-dose vaccine, there have not been clinical trials that show a difference in infection rates compared with the standard vaccine.
But observational data suggests the adjuvanted vaccine is more protective against hospitalisation with influenza or pneumonia to a similar degree as the high-dose vaccine.
One problem with both these vaccines is that they only contain three strains, rather than the four strains in the current vaccine.
The strain missing from the new vaccines is an influenza B type.
Senior Flu Shot: What You Need To Know
Each fall, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges Americans to get the influenza vaccine. As the U.S. continues to see the devastating effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to get a senior flu shot. If your loved one is 65 or older, getting a flu shot is still important, even if theyve received a COVID-19 vaccine.
Older adults are at high risk for life-threatening complications from the flu, including hospitalizations and death. The CDC estimates the flu causes 140,000 to 810,000 hospitalizations and 12,000 to 61,000 deaths in the U.S. every year. The CDC also estimates up to 70% of flu-related hospitalizations and 85% of deaths associated with the flu occur in seniors age 65 and older.
Ensuring your senior loved one is protected against the flu can help prevent flu-related complications and hospitalizations. Learn about the different types of senior flu shots, their effectiveness, possible side effects, and how they can prevent flu-related complications.
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What To Know About Flu Shots For Older Adults
Q: Is the flu vaccine effective for older adults?
A: You may have heard people say that the flu shot doesnt work in older people. This is not entirely correct.
Now, its true that flu vaccine is usually less effective in older adults because aging immune systems tend to not respond as vigorously to the vaccine. In other words, older adults tend to create fewer antibodies in response to vaccination. So if they are later exposed to flu virus, they have a higher chance of falling ill, compared to younger adults.
But less effective doesnt mean not at all effective. For the 2017-2018 flu season, the CDC estimates that vaccination prevented about 700,000 influenza cases and 65,000 hospitalizations, for adults aged 65 and older.
For more on the effectiveness of influenza vaccination in older adults, see:
To provide more effective vaccination to aging immune systems, vaccine makers have developed stronger vaccines against the flu, which I explain in the next section.
Q: Are there flu shots specifically designed for older adults?
Yes, over the past several years, vaccine makers have developed vaccines that are designed to work better with an aging immune system. Most research studies to date show that these stimulate aging immune systems to produce more antibodies to influenza. Theres also some evidence that these vaccines reduce the risk of being hospitalized for influenza.
Even Healthy People Need Vaccines
Many people still think of immunizations are for children they just don’t think of getting these, or they think, “Why should I do that if I’m healthy?”
There are other barriers to getting vaccines among adults, which were outlined in an article published by The American Journal of Medicine.
This article reported that self-reported immunization rates for tetanus, influenza and pneumococcal vaccines were lower than the national guideline goal rates. Common consumer-reported barriers included:
- Lack of physician recommendations
- Incorrect assumptions
Surveyed health care providers suggested additional barriers facing patients include:
- Fear of needles
- Perceived side effects
- Lack of insurance coverage
To increase immunization rates, it’s important to overcome these barriers, such as the widespread myth that vaccines are unsafe and commonly cause serious side effects.
Vaccines have minimal risks and are generally very safe
The risks for vaccines among people age 65 and older are the same as any population, aside from the possibility of less effectiveness with age.
Serious complications are very rare for most patients, the benefits significantly outweigh the risks involved.
The influenza vaccine is made with completely dead forms of the influenza virus, and there is no scientific way you can get the flu from the vaccine. This vaccine is generally safe for all patients over six months of age.
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Adults Aged 65 Years Are Strongly Recommended To Receive Influenza Vaccine Every Year
Adults aged 65 years are strongly recommended to receive an annual dose of influenza vaccine.
Either the adjuvanted influenza vaccine, Fluad Quad or the high dose influenza vaccine, Fluzone High Dose Quadrivalent is recommended in preference to standard influenza vaccine for adults aged 65 years. See also Vaccine information.
Influenza-associated mortality rates are highest among adults aged 65 years.4 Vaccinating elderly people reduces hospitalisations from influenza and pneumonia, and all-cause mortality.8
Who Should Have The Vaccine
In the 2022/23 flu season, the flu vaccine will be available for free to the following groups in England:
- All children aged 2 to 10 years on 31st Aug 2022
- Secondary school children in years 7, 8 and 9 – any remaining vaccine will be offered to children in years 10 and 11, subject to vaccine availability
- Those aged 50-64 years
- Those in long-term residential care homes
- Frontline health and social care workers
- Close contacts of immunocompromised individuals
- Those aged 6 months to 65 years in at-risk groups including people with the following health conditions:
- Respiratory diseases, including asthma
- Heart disease, kidney disease or liver disease
- Neurological conditions including learning disability
- A severely weakened immune system , a missing spleen, sickle cell anaemia or coeliac disease
- Being seriously overweight
Your doctor may recommend the flu vaccine in other circumstances as well.
Note that the eligibility criteria for the 2022/23 season are different to those in the 2021/22 season, so some people who were eligible for the flu vaccine last year may not be eligible this year.
Babies under 6 months old are too young to receive a flu vaccine. This is because they have maternal antibodies passed on from their mother which prevent the vaccine from working so well. Flu vaccination is offered to all pregnant women in the UK . As well as protecting pregnant women themselves, this also helps to protect their newborn babies from flu.
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The 5 Vaccines Every Person Over Age 65 Should Consider
Vaccines are not just a childhood past time. They play an important role in protecting you in every phase of life. And they become particularly important during the elder years when risks to certain diseases climb higher.
For older patients in assisted living or those in larger, more populated care settings, vaccinations are even more important, as exposure risk to communicable diseases like COVID-19, the flu and pneumonia are higher.
Certain vaccines are proven to be safe and very effective in preventing several diseases that can have very serious implications for aging populations.
AdventHealth explains how five important vaccines can help keep people age 65 and older as healthy and vibrant as possible.
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, a quadrivalent inactivated influenza vaccine which also uses an adjuvant is being offered to people aged over 65. Side effects usually last 1-3 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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Adjuvanted Inactivated Flu Vaccine
Another vaccine specifically designed for seniors is the adjuvanted, inactivated flu vaccine. An adjuvant is a substance that increases your body’s reaction to virus proteins.
Medical term: Inactivated flu shots contain dead flu viruses. The antigens in the vaccine still provoke an immune response so you build up antibodies against the flu virus. Inactivated flu vaccines are typically recommended for people who are pregnant, are over the age of 65, or who have certain medical conditions.
The substance added to the adjuvanted flu vaccine is squalene oil, also called MF59, which is found naturally in plants and animals. “This gives an extra boost to the immune response to the vaccine which will then lead to greater protection from infection,” Haynes says.
Because the adjuvanted vaccine spikes your immune response, it may also have more side effects than the standard vaccine, including irritation at the injection site, muscle aches, and headache. However, the vaccine offers great protection for seniors a 2020 study found that people over 65 who got the adjuvanted vaccine were less likely to be hospitalized for the flu, compared with those who got the standard vaccine.
Are The New Vaccines Safe
Both vaccines are safe, but commonly cause mild side-effects, and very rarely can cause serious side-effects. However, these risks from the vaccine are less than from getting influenza infection.
The main side-effect of vaccines relates to their effect in stimulating the immune system.
In many people they cause a sore arm and, less commonly, a fever. The side-effects of these new flu vaccines are slightly more common than with standard vaccines.
Generally, these side-effects are mild and don’t last long.
None of the flu vaccines used in Australia contains live virus and therefore can’t cause flu infection. However, the vaccination season usually occurs around the same time as when another respiratory virus circulates, so this respiratory infection is commonly misattributed to vaccination.
Rare but serious side-effects, such as Guillain Barre Syndrome , have been described after flu vaccination.
Studies suggest the risk of these side-effects are less common after the flu vaccine than after flu infection.
People with allergies should discuss flu vaccines with their doctor. In the past, there has been concern the flu vaccines, which are manufactured in eggs, may elicit allergic reactions in people with egg allergy.
However, it is now thought people with egg allergies can receive flu vaccines safely under appropriate supervision.
In 2009, an adjuvanted vaccine was thought to be implicated in cases of narcolepsy in Europe.
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What Is The Difference Between Fluzone High
Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent contains four times the antigen, the part of the vaccine that helps your body build up protection against flu viruses, than Fluzone Quadrivalent and other standard-dose inactivated flu vaccines. The higher dose of antigen in the vaccine is intended to give people 65 years and older a better immune response to vaccination, and therefore, better protection against flu. Both Fluzone High-Dose and Fluzone Quadrivalent are produced by the same manufacturer and are quadrivalent vaccines. There are a number of other flu vaccines produced by other manufacturers.
Better Protection Against The Flu
As noted earlier, better HI antibody responses are known to correlate with protection against influenza infection and reduced clinical disease risk. Yet while it is very encouraging that Fluzone HD induces higher serum antibody titers without significant safety concerns, the jury is still out on whether this actually translates into fewer confirmed cases and serious complications from the flu.
As a condition of licensure under FDAs accelerated approval process, the agency instructed Sanofi Pasteur to conduct a head-to-head study to compare Fluzone HD and Fluzone in 27,000 to 30,000 adult subjects 65 years of age and older. That study will be conducted over three flu seasons to try to account for typical fluctuation in vaccine efficacy, which is related to differences between the flu virus that arrives and the strains picked in advance to make the vaccine. The first season is already enrolled, with the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 seasons to follow. Until that study is finished and the results are known, Fluzone HDs labeling informs providers and recipients that there have been no controlled studies demonstrating a decrease in influenza disease after vaccination with Fluzone High-Dose.
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