• What people 65+ should do if they can't find the "high-dose" flu vaccine

    By: Mike Saccone

    Updated:

    QUINCY, Mass. - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging everyone to get their flu shot by October 31, but some people 65 and older looking for the “high dose vaccine” have been met with frustration and concern. 

    The “high dose vaccine,” which is designed specifically for people 65 and older, is out of stock at many places. 

    “There were delays in choosing which strains of flu virus to include in this year's vaccine because they wanted to make sure they had the most effective version when it was ready to go,” Brittany Orlando, a clinical pharmacist for Stop and Shop Pharmacy, told Boston 25 News. 

    The “high dose vaccine” is manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur. Nicolas Kressmann, a company spokesperson, said the World Health Organization postponed selection of the A(H3N2) strain to be included in the vaccine in the Northern Hemisphere by one month after observing antigenic drift in the circulating strain. 

    “This allowed health authorities to collect additional data to help improve the match of the vaccine strain to the A(H3N2) strain anticipated to circulate during the 2019-2012 season,” Kressmann added. 

    Manufacturing couldn’t begin until the selection was made by the World Health Organization and confirmed by the Food and Drug Administration.

    Kressmann said there’s no shortage of the “high dose vaccine.” The hold up in manufacturing translated in a delay in getting it shipped to doctors’ offices, pharmacies and other healthcare facilities.  

    With peak flu season just around the corner, Orlando advises people 65 and older not to wait for a new shipment to get vaccinated. 

    “It's better to get the regular quadrivalent vaccine that's available now,” Orlando advises. “Who knows when there could be enough supply to meet demand of the senior vaccine. That's all extra time the patient is going to be exposed and at risk of getting the flu virus.”

    According to the CDC, adults 65 years and older are at high risk for flu complications. 

    Although the “high dose vaccine,” which contains four times the amount of antigen as a regular flu shot, offers more protection, the CDC doesn’t recommend one vaccine over the other. 

    “Any vaccine, whether that's the regular dose quadrivalent one or one of the specialized senior vaccines, is perfectly fine to use,” Orlando said. 

    The CDC recommends everyone six months of age and older get a flu vaccine every season. Anyone who hasn’t got their flu shot this season, is urged to do so as soon as possible. 

    Orlando said all signs are pointing to this year’s flu season getting an early start. 

    “If we look at trends in other countries and Australia, their flu season hit earlier than usual, so that trend usually predicts what happens here in the United States,“ Orlando explained. 

    A CDC spokesperson told Boston 25 News manufacturers have reported 127-million doses of the flu vaccine have been distributed so far this season. Overall, the manufacturers have projected they’ll provide as many as 162 to 169 million doses of the flu vaccine in the United States.

    Kressmann said Sanofi Pasteur is currently producing 70 million doses of the flu vaccine to be distributed nationwide. Shipping began in August and will continue through November.

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