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New Choices for Flu Vaccines

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Quadrivalent Vaccines continued...

There also are quadrivalent injections, which don't contain live virus.

"I would say take advantage of it, if it's available and it doesn't cost you extra out of pocket," says Wilbur Chen, MD. He is a clinical vaccinologist at the University of Maryland's Center for Vaccine Development in Baltimore.

Be aware, though: The new four-strain shots may be hard to find.

Doctors and pharmacists, who had to order vaccines back in February, may have ordered whatever was available at the time, so they may have mostly three-strain, Brady says.  "And that's OK."

High-Dose Vaccines

Seniors have a weaker response to vaccines than children and younger adults. Last year, for example, the traditional flu vaccine was about 65% effective in children, but only about 27% effective in people 65 and older, according to the CDC.

Studies have shown that giving higher doses may more effectively rouse an older immune system, so companies have begun to offer new high-dose flu shots. It’s a bid to improve protection for the elderly, who can catch the flu more easily and also tend to face the worst of its complications.

The high-dose flu shot contains four times as much active ingredient as a regular flu shot. It has been FDA-approved since 2009, but it’s not clear if the high-dose vaccine really offers more protection.

Sanofi Pasteur, maker of the high-dose vaccine, says early results of a clinical trial show that the higher dose does work better than the traditional vaccine.

Medicare covers the high-dose flu shot as well as other kinds of flu vaccines. Before insurance, the cost is $50 at Target pharmacy, about twice as much as the standard flu shot.

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