’Tis the Season… For Flu Shots, Vaccinations | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 04 October 2012 13:35

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BY JIM MILLER

Special to the Times

There are several different types of flu shots available to seniors this year, along with a new FDA-approved shot for pneumonia. Here are your options.

Flu Shots

Just as they do every year, the CDC strongly recommends a seasonal flu shot to almost everyone, but it’s especially important for seniors who are more vulnerable.

The flu puts more than 200,000 people in the hospital each year and kills around 24,000 — 90 percent of whom are seniors.

This year, all seniors 65 and older have two flu vaccine options. A traditional flu shot or a shot of Fluzone High-Dose. The high-dose vaccine contains four times the amount of antigen (which prompts the body to produce antibodies) as a regular flu shot does. It creates a stronger immune response for better protection.

And, if you’re under age 65, your two options are a regular flu shot or a shot of Fluzone Intradermal. The intradermal vaccine uses a shorter, thinner needle to inject the vaccine just under the skin, rather than deeper in the muscle like standard flu shots. If you’re squeamish about needles, this is a nice option.

You also need to be aware that: If you’re allergic to chicken eggs or if you have had a severe reaction to a flu vaccine in the past, you should not get vaccinated without consulting your doctor first.

To locate a vaccination site that offers regular, high-dose and intradermal flu shots, ask your doctor or pharmacist, or check the online flu-shot locator at flu.gov. Most chains like CVS, Walgreens, Safeway, Kmart, Walmart, Rite Aid and Kroger offer all types of shots.

You’ll also be happy to know that: If you’re a Medicare beneficiary, Part B will cover 100 percent of the costs of any flu shot. But, if you’re not covered, you can expect to pay around $25 to $35 for a regular or intradermal flu shot, or $50 to $60 for a shot of the high-dose.

Pneumonia Vaccine

The other important vaccination the CDC recommends to seniors — especially this time of year — is the pneumococcal vaccine for pneumonia and meningitis. Pneumococcal diseases hospitalize around 300,000 U.S. seniors each year, and kills around 5,000.

The CDC currently recommends all seniors 65 or older get a one-time-only shot of the vaccine Pneumovax, as well as those under 65 who smoke or have chronic health conditions like asthma, lung and heart disease, diabetes or a weakened immune system.

Pneumovax, which protects against 23 strains of the pneumococcal disease, is also covered 100 percent under Medicare Part B, and you can get it on the same day you get your flu shot. If you’re not covered by insurance, this vaccine costs around $45 to $85 at retail clinics.

You also need to know that, this year, there’s an alternative pneumococcal vaccine available to people age 50 and older called Prevnar 13. This vaccine, which has been available to children for several years, may provide seniors longer lasting and better protection against pneumonia than Pneumovax.

Talk to your doctor to determine which pneumonia vaccine is best for you.

Prevnar 13 is also covered by most insurers, including Medicare Part B; but, if you aren’t covered, the shot runs between $100 and $150.

Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior.”

 

 


 

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