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Varied flu vaccines' effectiveness depends on age, health

FluMist not recommended this season

SAN ANTONIO – Flu season is right around the corner and many agree that getting a vaccine is the best defense against the illness. But depending on your age and health, you may need to change the type of vaccine you get.

This year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention isn’t recommending the nasal vaccine, FluMist. In the past three years, FluMist offered little protection against the flu in children between the ages of 2 and 17. However, the shot is 63 percent effective in that age group.

Adults ages 18 to 64 have the option of getting the vaccine with a smaller needle that only pierces the skin, which should be less painful than the traditional shot injected into the muscle.

There are new formulations for people 65 and older to consider. Fluzone High Dose is four times stronger than the normal vaccine, and another type, Fluad, boosts older people’s immune system response. Check with your doctor about those vaccines.

When it comes to timing the shot, healthy people under the age of 60 or so can benefit from longer protection by getting the vaccine as soon as it becomes available, which is usually by late summer. But the protective effect of the vaccine may wear off faster in older people, so getting the shot a bit later, like in early fall, may protect them better during winter when the flu season tends to peak. In any case, it takes about two weeks to build up immunity.

Consumer Reports said the most important thing, of course, is to get the flu shot no matter what the timing is. The standard vaccine is still free under most insurance plans and Medicare, which means no co-pay or deductible. But you’ll need to check with your insurance company to be sure.


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