Which vaccines are recommended for this fall and winter virus season?
There are three different types of vaccines to consider getting this fall to protect against a repeat of last winter's "tripledemic" of respiratory illnesses, which included flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and coronavirus (COVID). Here is a review of the different vaccines the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending and how they are covered by Medicare.
Senior-Specific Flu Shots
The CDC recommends everyone aged six months or older to get a flu vaccine. For those aged 64 and older, the CDC recommends three different types of flu shots. These senior-specific vaccines are designed to offer more protection than the standard flu shot, which may be important for older adults who have weaker immune defenses and those who may be at a greater risk of developing dangerous flu complications. The three senior-specific options include:
- Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent vaccine: Contains four times the amount of antigen as a regular flu shot and creates a stronger immune response for better protection.
- Fluad Quadrivalent vaccine: Contains an added adjuvant ingredient known as MF59 that helps create a stronger immune response.
- FluBlok Quadrivalent vaccine, a recombinant protein (egg-free) flu vaccine that contains three times the amount of antigen as compared with a regular flu shot.
The CDC does not recommend one vaccination over the other. Speak with your healthcare professional to determine which vaccine is best for you.
The Fluzone High-Dose and Fluad vaccines can cause more side effects compared to the standard-dose flu shot. Side effects may include pain or tenderness at injection site, muscle aches, headache or fatigue.
Flu vaccines are covered by Medicare Part B and Original Medicare as long as your vaccine is received from a participating provider.
New RSV Vaccines
Individuals aged 60 and older, but particularly those with heart or lung conditions, diabetes, kidney or liver disorders that heighten vulnerability to RSV should consider getting one of the new FDA-approved RSV vaccines, Arexvy or Abrysvo. However, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider to determine if the RSV vaccine is safe and suitable for you. The new RSV vaccines are covered by Medicare (Part D) prescription drug plans.
RSV vaccines are recommended by the CDC to protect older and immunocompromised adults from respiratory illness. The CDC estimates that RSV is responsible for 6,000 to 10,000 deaths and at least 60,000 hospitalizations each year in adults aged 65 and older.
Updated Covid Booster
If you have not recently had a COVID-19 booster shot, you may consult with your healthcare professional to determine if you should get one this fall. Despite the COVID public health emergency ending and the reduction in the number of cases, there has been a recent surge causing an increase in hospitalizations, especially among the elderly.
The updated Covid vaccine targets XBB.1.5 and the omicron subvariant that is the most dominant coronavirus variant currently circulating in the U.S. It will also provide protection against the EG.5 variant, which is closely related to XBB.1.5 and BA.2.86, a new subvariant. COVID booster shots are covered by Medicare Part B.
When and Where
Most health officials agree that it is safe to receive the flu and COVID booster at the same time. However, because the RSV vaccines are new this year, many doctors are recommending a two-week window between an RSV shot and the flu and COVID shots.
You can find all three vaccines at most pharmacies, medical clinics and health departments, or you can do a search at Vaccines.gov
. Check that the location is a participating provider.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.