Flu season is right around the corner, and health officials encourage getting a vaccine as the best defense against the illness. However, depending on your age and health, you may need to change the type of vaccine you get.
This year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention do not recommend the nasal vaccine FluMist. In the past three years, FluMist offered little protection against the flu in children between the ages of 2 and 17. However, the shot is 63 percent effective in that age group.
Adults ages 18 to 64 have the option of getting the vaccine with a smaller needle that only pierces the skin, which should be less painful than the traditional shot injected into the muscle.
There are new formulations for people 65 and older to consider, according to researchers. Fluzone High Dose is four times stronger than the normal vaccine. Another type, Fluad, boosts older people’s immune system response. Check with your doctor on those.
When it comes to timing the shot, healthy people under the age of 60 or so can benefit from longer protection by getting the vaccine as soon as it becomes available—usually by late summer. However, health officials say the protective effect of the vaccine may wear off faster in older people.
So getting the shot a bit later—in early fall—may protect them better during winter, when the flu season tends to peak. In any case, it takes about two weeks to build up immunity.
Consumer Reports says the most important thing, of course, is to get the flu shot no matter what the timing. The standard vaccine is still free under most insurance plans and Medicare — no co-pay or deductible. But you’ll need to check with your insurance company to be sure.