Ask a Medcan registered nurse: Should I get the high-dose flu vaccine? 

It produces significantly higher antibody levels

It’s that time of year again: flu season. Influenza is an extremely contagious respiratory disease caused by infection with either Type A or Type B influenza virus. It remains a worldwide epidemic disease and is the cause of hospitalizations, health complications and, in rare cases, death.

The flu is characterized by sudden onset of fever and non-productive cough along with headache, muscle aches, fatigue, sinus congestion, and/or sore throat. It is spread from person to person when coughing, sneezing or talking. Aside from receiving your annual flu vaccination, other ways to avoid the transmission and spread of influenza include washing your hands frequently, avoid touching your mouth and nose with unclean hands, and covering your cough and sneeze.

Vaccinated adults protect people in their community who are older, younger or immuno-compromised. In Canada, influenza typically occurs during the late fall and winter months.

Who should be vaccinated?

The annual influenza vaccine is recommended for anyone six months or older, with emphasis on high-risk individuals who are at greater risk for severe complications of the flu. People considered “high risk” who should receive their annual flu shot include those with a weakened immune system, the elderly population, those who live in nursing homes or chronic care facilities, and pregnant women.

Vaccination aims to provide protection against the specific strains of influenza that are most commonly circulated during this season.

Which flu shot should I receive?

There are three influenza vaccinations* available this year, depending on your age and health status.

Quadrivalent Inactivated Vaccine (QIV) Quadrivalent-Live Attenuated Vaccine
(Q-LAIV) FluMist
High-Dose Trivalent Inactivated Vaccine
(HD TIV)
 provides superior protection and better vaccine efficacy compared to the standard QIV vaccine for seniors who typically have a higher incidence of influenza A.
Age Eligibility 6 months of age and older 2-17 years only 65 years and older only
Route Intramuscular injection Intranasal spray Intramuscular injection
Flu Strains

A- H1N1

A- H3N2

B- Victoria

B- Yamagata lineage

A- H1N1

A- H3N2

B- Victoria

B- Yamagata lineage

A- H1N1

A- H3N2

B- Victoria lineage

Common Side Effects Mild pain, redness and swelling at the injection site Nasal congestion Mild pain, redness and swelling at the injection site; fatigue, muscle aches and fever for up to 3 days
*Publicly-funded vaccines provided by Toronto Public Health

If I am under 65, can I get the high-dose flu vaccine? 

People 65 and older tend to have a weaker immune response to the influenza vaccine compared to younger individuals. The High-Dose Trivalent Inactivated Vaccine was tailored for the elderly population to illicit higher antibody levels against the flu. The HD TIV was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) based on clinical trials testing the vaccine in people 65 and older, therefore it is not indicated for younger individuals.

When should I get vaccinated?

You should receive your influenza vaccine annually, as the body’s immune response lessens within the year. The influenza strains vary each flu season, therefore the World Health Organization (WHO) will re-evaluate the vaccine every year and do their best to match the most current circulating viruses.

The influenza vaccine is now available to protect yourself as well as your friends, family and loved ones. You can receive your annual flu shot at local pharmacies, doctor’s offices and here at Medcan!

Sources

City of Toronto (September 2018). Influenza (flu) fact sheet
Government of Canada (May 1st, 2018). Canadian immunization guide chapter on influenza and statement on seasonal influenza vaccine for 2018-2019.
Toronto Public Health (September 20th, 2018). 2018/2019 Universal Influenza Immunization Program (UIIP).
World Health Organization. (February 22nd, 2018). Recommended composition of influenza virus vaccines for use in the 2017-2018 northern hemisphere influenza season.

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