How are high-dose flu vaccines different from other flu vaccines?
Answer From Pritish K. Tosh, M.D.
High-dose flu vaccines are a type of vaccine approved for people age 65 and older. They can help people in this age group have a stronger immune system response against influenza, commonly called the flu.
Flu is an infection of the nose, throat and lungs, which are part of the respiratory system. Flu can be prevented with vaccination. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual flu vaccinations for everyone age 6 months and older.
Some high-dose flu vaccines include 3 to 4 times as much flu virus antigen — the part of the vaccine that stimulates the immune system — as standard flu vaccines. One flu vaccine recommended for older adults has the same amount of antigen as the standard dose vaccine. But it boosts the immune response by including an ingredient called an adjuvant.
Why is it needed?
Flu data collected by the CDC shows that standard-dose flu vaccines likely don’t work as well in people over age 65 as they do in younger populations. People age 65 and older are generally at higher risk than others for severe flu and complications. Rates for hospital stays and death linked to flu are generally higher in this age group than they are for younger people.
Looking at previous flu seasons, researchers found that among people age 65 and older, high-dose flu vaccines generally help prevent flu-related hospital stays better than the standard-dose flu vaccines do. Studies also have found higher antibody levels in older adults who received high-dose flu vaccines than in those who received standard-dose flu vaccines.
But any flu vaccination is better than none. So if you are approved to get a high-dose flu vaccine but it isn’t available, get the flu vaccine that is available. Similar to other flu vaccines, the high-dose flu vaccine is updated every year to protect against the flu strains most likely to cause the flu during the upcoming flu season.
Are there side effects?
In a large study comparing high-dose and standard-dose flu vaccines, people who received the high-dose vaccine were more likely to develop side effects during the week after getting the vaccine. Side effects can include:
- Soreness, pain or color change at the site of the shot
- Muscle aches
- Feeling very tired
Pritish K. Tosh, M.D.
From Mayo Clinic to your inbox
Sign up for free, and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips and current health topics, like COVID-19, plus expertise on managing health.
To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which
information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with
other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could
include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected
health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health
information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of
privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on
the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.
Thank you for subscribing!
You’ll soon start receiving the latest Mayo Clinic health information you requested in your inbox.
Sorry something went wrong with your subscription
Please, try again in a couple of minutes
Oct. 12, 2022
- Flu & people 65 years and older. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/65over.htm. Accessed Sept. 14, 2022.
- Fluzone high-dose seasonal influenza vaccine. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/qa_fluzone.htm. Accessed Sept. 14, 2022.
- Hibberd PL. Seasonal influenza vaccination in adults. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Sept. 15, 2022.
- Wilkinson K, et al. Efficacy and safety of high-dose influenza vaccine in elderly adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Vaccine. 2017; doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2017.03.092.
- DiazGranados CA, et al. High-dose trivalent influenza vaccine compared to standard dose vaccine in elderly adults: Safety, immunogenicity and relative efficacy during the 2009-2010 season. Vaccine. 2013; doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2012.12.013.
- Grohskopf LA, et al. Prevention and control of seasonal influenza with vaccines: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices — United States, 2022-2023 influenza season. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports Recommendations and Reports 2022; doi:10.15585/mmwr.rr7101a1.
- Adjuvanted flu vaccine. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/adjuvant.htm. Accessed Sept. 15, 2022.
- Past seasons: Estimated influenza disease burden. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/past-seasons.html. Accessed Sept. 15, 2022.
- Loscalzo J, et al., eds. Influenza. In: Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine. 21st ed. McGraw Hill; 2022. https://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com. Accessed Sept. 15, 2022.
- What are the benefits of flu vaccination? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/vaccine-benefits.htm. Accessed Sept. 15, 2022.
- Who needs a flu vaccine? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/vaccinations.htm. Accessed Sept. 15, 2022.