Flu shot effectiveness depends on when, how you get vaccine

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You get the flu shot, but then you still get the flu. New findings show how and when you get the vaccine may be to blame. It appears the flu vaccine is not one-size-fits-all. (KABC)

You get the flu shot, but then you still get the flu. New findings show how and when you get the vaccine may be to blame. It appears the flu vaccine is not one-size-fits-all.

Getting a vaccine is hands-down the best defense against the flu, but depending on your age and health, you may need to change the type of vaccine you get.

Starting with kids - sorry, but there's no nasal vaccine this year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising against it.

"In the last three years, FluMist offered little, if any, protection against the flu in children between the ages of 2 and 17," said Dr. Orly Avitzur, Consumer Reports medical director.

Compare that with the shot, which was 63 percent effective in preventing the flu in kids.

Now, if you're an adult who hates the idea of getting a flu shot, try asking for a vaccine that comes with a smaller needle.

The "intradermal" vaccine only pierces the skin - which is less painful than the traditional shot injected into the muscle. However, some experts say it may not offer the same protection.

Also, there are new formulations for those 65 and over to consider. Research shows their immune system may not be as responsive as younger people's.

Fluzone high dose is four times stronger than the normal vaccine and 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," Avitzur said.

However, that protective effect may wear off faster in older people. So getting the shot a bit later may protect them better during winter, when the flu season tends to peak.

In any case, don't forget - it takes about two weeks to build up immunity.

Experts say the most important thing 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 sometimes you're not covered at pharmacies, so you'll need to check with your insurance company to be sure.

Consumer Reports is a not-for-profit organization that does not accept advertising and does not have any commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site.

Related Topics:
healthhealthy livingfluflu preventionflu seasoncdcchildren's healthconsumer reports
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