Older People May Benefit From High-Dose Flu Vaccine

Flu vaccine in high dose was slightly more effective at preventing influenza in elderly patients

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Everyone would prefer to avoid the flu, but, for older patients, the virus can pose a more serious threat. A new study suggests that a high-dose vaccine may better protect these patients.

The study involved adults 65 and older for several flu seasons — some received a standard-dose flu vaccine and others received a high-dose variation.

The participants who received the high-dose vaccine were slightly less likely to be diagnosed with the flu or report a serious reaction to the vaccine, the study authors found.

"Learn the risks and benefits of different flu vaccine doses."

According to the authors of this study, which was led by Keipp Talbot, MD, MPH, of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN, the seasonal flu hits patients older than 65 particularly hard, leading to more hospitalizations and deaths among this age group.

The authors wanted to see whether a high-dose version of the flu vaccine was more effective than the standard-dose seasonal flu vaccine at preventing influenza in older adults.

To do so, Dr. Talbot and colleagues gathered data from 126 research centers located in the United States and Canada during the 2011 to 2012 and 2012 to 2013 flu seasons. A total of 31,989 participants were involved, 15,991 of whom received the high-dose vaccine and 15,998 of whom received the standard vaccine.

The patients participated in follow-up interviews, and, if symptoms appeared, the researchers tested samples for the flu virus.

In total, 228 patients (1.43 percent) from the high-dose group and 301 patients (1.88 percent) from the standard-dose group were diagnosed with the flu.

Dr. Talbot and team also monitored the patients for serious adverse events tied to the vaccinations, which could include major allergic reactions to the vaccine.

A total of 1,323 (8.27 percent) of the high-dose group and 1,442 of the standard-dose group (9.02 percent) experienced a serious adverse event that was tied to the vaccination.

In a news release from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Dr. Talbot said that these findings may point older patients in the direction of high-dose seasonal flu vaccines.

"Older adults are the most vulnerable to influenza; they become the sickest and have the most hospitalizations," Dr. Talbot said. "This vaccine works better than the standard dose and hence I would tell my patients to get the high-dose vaccine every year. In the meantime, we will continue to work to find newer and better vaccines for older adults.”

The study authors identified a fairly small number of flu cases in this study. Further research is needed to confirm these findings among more patients and different seasonal strains of the flu virus, the researchers noted.

The study was published Aug. 13 by the New England Journal of Medicine.

The vaccines used for the study were Fluzone vaccines produced by the pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur, which funded the study.

Review Date: 
August 12, 2014
Last Updated:
August 15, 2014