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New flu shots for H1N1, elderly

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As the medical establishment looks ahead to the coming flu season, new vaccines are being readied that may help avoid the stampede to get flu shots that occurred last year. The new vaccine combines seasonal and H1N1 flu strains in a single shot.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced seasonal flu outbreaks in several states. And although a number of manufacturers have shipped vaccine doses to national distributors, it will be some weeks before they are available to the public.

In addition to the new combined vaccine, a high-dose shot designed specifically for those 65 and older will be made available. Fluzone High-Dose is covered by Medicare and does not require a deductible or copayment.

Because an older immune system doesn’t respond as well to the antigen delivered via vaccination, higher doses are required to stimulate the desired response. Adequate immune response is critical in the elderly, who are especially vulnerable to serious complications from the flu.

Although last year’s flu pandemic shut down schools and businesses, experts expect this year’s flu to be much less prevalent.