FLU SEASON: 65-and-over seniors urged to consider higher-dose flu shots

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has licensed a pair of high-dose flu vaccines for people ages 65-and-older.

Fluzone High-Dose and FLUAD work differently, but their effects are the same. Their job is to stimulate your immune system, which is important the older we get.

"The main reason is because their immune systems are failing (as you age) and it compromises the other (health) issues that they have," explained Connie Garrison, the Director of the The Gardens Assisted Living Community in south Springfield where the high-dose shots were offered in October.

"I would say 98 percent of our residents took the flu shot," Garrison said.

Charlotte Combs, a resident of The Gardens, was among those asked if it was important for seniors to get those flu shots.

"Oh yes, just not me," she replied with a smile.

Combs actually did take a high-dose shot like most of the others.

"The older you get the more you worry from head-to-toe because the older you get the more you hurt from head-to-toe," said resident Ann Benson when asked why a flu shot was important to her.

Resident Myria Hart had an extra motivation to take her shot.

"I've never had the flu," she said. "In my whole life I've never had it."

The FDA only recommends the higher-dose vaccine for older adults because there are no studies available on its impact to younger patients yet.

So why are older folks being targeted for the higher doses?

"As we age our body becomes more at-risk for things," answered Christy Bos, an Infection Prevention Nurse at Mercy. "You are more likely to have complications from the flu than a younger person."

"If they have lung problems, cancer, diabetes, any situations like that they are prone to get the flu and get it bad," Garrison added.

The CDC does not recommend one amount of dosage over another, saying only that everyone six months or older should get a flu shot of some kind.

So if you're trying to decide about taking the higher-dosage shots?

"It's something you want to discuss with your doctor because of the health conditions you may have," Bos said. "But most physicians would recommend the higher dose."

Any flu shot dose could have side-effects such as soreness around the injection site or a low grade, 24-hour fever.

Bos said those symptoms would not necessarily be any worse with a stronger dosage shot.

"You don't need to be concerned with that with the higher dose," she said. "You might still feel puny like you would with the regular dose of the vaccine but it shouldn't be of an increased concern."

The Garden residents are certainly glad they went ahead with their flu shots.

"I think that's one of the preventable things like the measles," Benson said. "If it's something you can prevent from happening it's foolish not to do so."