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Health officials: Don't hold out for the high dose flu shot

People over 65 keep asking for the high dose vaccine, but health officials say waiting for it is not recommended.

ARKANSAS, USA — The big push at the pharmacy counter this flu season? People over 65 asking for high dose vaccines as they prepare to head into the annual sick season. 

Health officials are reminding those at higher risk not to skip getting a shot even if the high dose isn't available.

"The quadrivalent flu shot is perfectly acceptable for people 65 and up," said Jenny Stephens, a pharmacist at The Pharmacy on Wellington in West Little Rock. "The H.D., or high dose flu shot, is heavily marketed to seniors aged 65 and up."

That marketing is showing up when customers come to her counter. 

The dangerous flu seasons of the past couple years have upped everybody's education about shots and strains.

"I'm noticing that people are getting their flu shots earlier and earlier every year," she said.

While that's a good thing, she said some appear to be getting mixed messages from their doctors about what the Fluzone formulation by drug-maker Sanofi Pasteur can do for them. It's showing promise, according to initial studies put out by the company.

"But the studies have not been conducted to show that one is better than the other flu vaccines that are currently available," said Dr. Jennifer Dellaha, the chief epidemiologist for the Arkansas Dept. of Health.

The official caution hasn't prevented a run on the high dose shots. It's in short supply and on back-order at Stephens' pharmacy. So now, they are delivering a new message.

"It would be best not to run around town looking for the high dose shot," Stephens said. "The best option for anyone looking would be to go ahead and get the 'regular' flu shot, which is the quadrivalent flu shot."

That big word "quadrivalent" actually means you get protection from four flu strains. The high dose only covers three, so go ahead and make a value judgment.

"People should not wait to get those vaccines if there's flu in their community now," said Dr. Dellaha.

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