By: Steve Bond, BScPhm, RPh, CDE, FASCP
Because the virus causing influenza or “the flu” changes every year, an annual flu shot is needed. It provides the best protection against becoming ill with the flu. So how effective is the flu shot? It depends on how well the vaccine strains match with circulating types/subtypes of influenza viruses plus the health and age of the individual receiving a flu shot. Even if it is not a perfect match, you can still get some benefit from the influenza vaccine. It takes approximately two weeks for the vaccine to reach its maximum effect and since the virus in the shot is dead, you cannot get the flu from the flu shot.
For those over 65, you can choose to get a vaccine specially designed for older individuals. There are two vaccines publicly funded: Fluzone HD and Fluad. Fluzone HD is a high dose version of the standard shot. That means that it has 4 times stronger than the average flu shot. This increased vaccine has been shown to be superior for older adults in preventing the flu and also reducing complications. Fluad, contains the same amount of vaccine as a standard dose, but has an adjuvant — a special addition to stimulate the immune system. Like the high dose shot, Fluad has been proven to be superior to the regular vaccine in the over 65 population.
For those interested in updating their covid vaccinations, the newest version of the vaccine that targets the XBB1.5 variant is available. Both Moderna and Pfizer have developed a vaccine to target this variant, which is expected to dominate this fall and winter. Flu shots and covid shots can be given at the same time. Either in opposite arms or in the same arm (separated by two inches). Like the flu shot, covid vaccines take around two weeks to reach full effect.
So, this fall, it’s your chance to take your shot(s) — get your vaccines up to date to have a healthy fall and winter. Take care of yourselves and each other.