Frail Seniors Fare Better with High-Dose Flu Vaccine

December 26, 2014
Meghan Ross, Associate Editor

Long-term care residents benefit more from the high-dose flu vaccine than the regular flu shot.

Long-term care residents benefit more from the high-dose flu vaccine than the regular flu shot, according to a University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine study.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, proved that frail elderly patients living in long-term care facilities benefit more from Sanofi Pasteur’s Fluzone High-Dose vaccine than the standard flu shot, with the exception of 1 strain in the 2012-2013 influenza season.

The Fluzone High-Dose vaccine was licensed in 2009 and designed for individuals aged 65 years and older. Compared with regular flu shots, the high-dose vaccine contains 4 times the antigen, which prompts the immune system to create antibodies against influenza.

The study authors followed 187 long-term care residents aged 86.7 years on average during the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 flu seasons to see how they reacted to either the Fluzone High-Dose or regular flu shot.

The seniors’ antibodies were tested after 30 days and 180 days to see how their immune systems adapted to prepare for the flu, as well as examine how the vaccine’s efficacy declined as time went on.

Seniors who had received the high-dose vaccine showed a greater immune response at both the 30-day mark and the 180-day mark for all flu strains, except strain A/H1N1 in the 2012-2013 season.

“The high-dose vaccine is not a guarantee against contracting the flu, even though it significantly decreases the likelihood,” said lead author David A. Nace, MD, MPH, in a press release. “That is why it is so important to take a ‘bundled approach’ to preventing flu in long-term care facilities, including vaccination of health care workers, asking people with flu-like illness not to visit residents, practicing proper cough etiquette and hand hygiene, and frequent sanitation of commonly used areas and equipment.”

Elderly patients are more prone to flu-related death than the rest of the population, and they have lower immune defenses and increased flu exposure risks. Additionally, the flu shot is less effective for seniors than it is for younger individuals.

Each year, 90% of those with flu-related mortality are aged 65 years or older, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For those aged 85 and older, flu-associated deaths are 16 times higher.