High-dose flu vaccine can help older patients

STRATFORD, Conn. (WTNH)–So far this flu season, 52 people in Connecticut have died of the flu.

The State Department of Public Health reports that of those 52, 44 were patients 65 and older.

75-year-old Carol Benichak and her husband Raymond always get their flu shot.

Related: Weather, flu, hitting blood supplies hard

She says, “If you can do a little prevention, definitely do it. It can go a long way.”

But it’s not the standard vaccine offered to most people, it’s a high dose vaccine— specifically for those 65 and older, who are more at risk due to weakened immune systems.

“I think around 62, that they suggested that we start having it because I had a lot of medical problems too. There’s a little soreness, but you know it eventually it goes away.”

Related: Washing hands vs. hand sanitizer in fighting the flu

Their internist, Dr. James Ralabate at Primary Care Physicians of Stratford with St. Vincent’s Medical Center, prescribed it.

He says, ‘They are a higher dose vaccine — they are used also for people at high risk with other serious chronic illnesses such as cancer.

It’s designed to boost their immune system.

“So in the elderly population – it’s a higher strength – it’s a higher component – doing that so they can protect the older population.”

Dr. Ralabate says more than 95 percent of his older patients get the stronger dose single shot.

Related: Fatal flu season is not over yet

The CDC reports that those who do decrease their risk of coming down with the flu significantly, compared to those who received the standard one.

“I had a little bit of a sinus infection,” says Carol, “then I got a little bit of the flu bug but it was very mild. I just had the headaches and the body aches. So it work — at least with me it did.”

In the meantime, her husband has not come down with it.

“Well he’s a strong guy,” says Carol laughingly.

Still,  protection goes a long way.  Washing hands, and wearing masks — a battle that may not end until May.

How effective is the high dose vaccine for the older patient?

It’s similar to the standard one.

A new study out of Canada suggests– the vaccine may only be 17 percent effective against the H3N2 virus – the main flu strain going around this season.

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