Reaction to higher dose of age 65+ flu vaccine

I went to see my doctor a few days ago and was offered a flu vaccination. I’ve been getting flu shots for many years and feel they are valuable to me. The nurse noted that my recent birthday placed me in the “over age-65” category for which a new and stronger version of the flu shot is recommended.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

It has been recognized for many years that people 65 years and older are at greater risk of serious complications from the flu compared with young, healthy adults because human immune defenses become weaker with age. While flu seasons can vary in severity, during most seasons, people 65 years and older bear the greatest burden of severe flu disease. In recent years, for example, it’s estimated that between about 70 percent and 85 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older and between 54 percent and 70 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations have occurred among people in that age group. So influenza is often quite serious for people 65 and older.

I accepted and received this new-to-me stronger dose. When I awoke the next morning, I felt a headache and stuffy sinuses. I also felt chilled enough while sleeping to retrieve an extra blanket. My symptoms on arising reminded me of alcohol hangovers in my distant past. I felt physically depressed and just wanted to go back to bed. So I did and slept until 5:00 p.m.!

My blood glucose was ranging a bit higher overnight and through my extended “sleep day.” My continuous glucose monitor showed BGs in the 100-160 mg/dL (5.6-8.9) range.

I went to bed early last night and woke up this morning feeling rested and well. I did some internet searching about the nature of the increased dose size intended for people aged 65+. I discovered this info at this CDC web-page:

Fluzone High-Dose vaccine contains four times the amount of antigen (the part of the vaccine that prompts the body to make antibody) contained in regular flu shots. The additional antigen is intended to create a stronger immune response (more antibody) in the person getting the vaccine.

I had thought that the increase in strength of the age 65+ flu shot was twice the original version and was surprised to read that it contains four times the antigens of the under-65 formulations.

I still feel that an annual flu shot is a good way to protect yourself, especially if you have diabetes and have passed the age 65 milestone. Have any of my fellow seniors experienced similar reactions to the “stronger” flu shot?

I always get an annual flu shot and haven’t had any reactions except back in the military when they used live vaccines (60’s, early 70’s). I’d be sick within a few hours and I always told my supervisor that if they expected me to get the shot and be able to come to work…well, it’s not happening. I’d have to call in sick every time. They FORCED us to get the shots–it was a direct order. Sigh. Since those old days, I no longer feel ill from the shots.

Yeah, I realize my reaction could be 1 in 1,000 or greater. My only concern at this point is if subsequent vaccines may produce an even greater reaction. In that case I might be tempted to step down to the usual dose.

I had the over 65 flu shot at the beginning of our winter and had no bad reaction. So far (touch wood) I have also not had the heavy cold I usually have at the end of each winter.

Has the flu season been any worse this year down there? I wonder if the flu vaccine formulations change every six months between the hemispheric cycling of seasons.

I saw my Mother get deathly ill after a flu shot - that was 30+ years ago

You would need two swat teams to give me a flu shot

never got the flu either

@Terry4, I have to be honest and say that some people have still had the flu, despite the over 65 shot, but I believe that in this retirement village there has been less flu this winter. Also our newspapers are not full of stories saying hospitals inundated with flu victims. Not really reliable information, more a guide.

Keep well this winter!

Yes, and enjoy your upcoming spring and summer!

From ages 14 to 16 I used to have an allergy shot every Friday to help me overcome the many allergies I had alongside type 1 diabetes. I always noticed that my blood sugar shot up on Fridays, though my endocrinologist at the time would always just shake his head on seeing the results and say that the shots shouldn’t be able to do that. And I thought medicine was supposed to be an empirical science!

As most of us know, blood sugar can fluctuate for many reasons. I think when the immune system is responding to a stimulus, be it an allergy or flu shot, it does affect blood glucose. The effects on blood glucose in this case were detectable but relatively small.

I have just done my weekly Flutracking survey for the Univ. NSW and remembered I do have some concrete figures for you.

This is Flutrackings figures:

There is also a Facebook page:

These figures relate to the number of people in the survey who live in Australia.

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I have done the 65 + plus shot, mostly and I do have mild flu symptoms with it.
As stated above. One year I waited too long and they only had the single strength, but no reaction to that.

I am still here and kicking, which is the best result.

I had the “over 65 dose” a couple of times a few years back. In both cases, I had significant flu-like symptoms for about three days, tapering off after the next several. I’ve switched back to the regular flu shots, which have not caused problems. Can’t even remember when I had a real case of the flu.

Thanks for reporting your experience with stronger flu dose, @DiabetesOldie. I’m thinking that my immune system is actually more sensitive than the one assumed in the stronger dose formulation. I think I will have a discussion about this with my doctor and give serious consideration to using the under age 65 dose going forward.

I don’t think my doctor has any special expertise about this but I think I’ll request some questioning on their part with the CDC before I make my decision next year.

Hi @Terry4
I just got my flu shot and it was pre-65 strength, thank you! Like you, I wonder if my immune system weren’t compromised, how bad would THAT reaction be?

I had the 65+ flu shot on Monday. It went as I expected Tuesday I felt pretty crappy, and slept a lot, feeling better Wednesday, Today Thursday back to normal .
Not much different than the other years of having the super shot.
I dont have any medical issues other than T2

The last time I had the flu was in college, in 1966. I was in the infirmary for two entire weeks, I was so sick. They didn’t have a flu shot back then, but apparently my immune system used to work pretty well, because I never got the flu again.

Starting in 1986, shortly after I was diagnosed with diabetes, my doctor insisted I get a flu shot. I’ve been getting one every year since then, and have never had a bad reaction, whether to the regular shot or to the over-65 shot which I’ve been getting for the past several years.

Based on my experience in college, and considering the fact that I’m now an insulin-dependent diabetic, my take on this is that I’d rather be somewhat sick for one day after a flu shot then to take a chance on getting the full-blown flu at this age.

My best friend is into naturopathic medicines and refuses to get a flu shot. Depending on how the season goes, I may not see her until late spring!

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I suspect your reaction was not really based on the antigen level of the vaccine, but in a processing problem with the individual batch. I have gotten both the regular, and in the last year or so the enhanced version, and only once did I have a negative reaction (high fever) and it was to the regular version. It was probably contaminated with who knows what.

I will stick with my assumption, unless you have research to contradict it.

Hi, Terry4,
Your topic is of interest since I had the new high-dose-for-old-people vaccine yesterday. While I’ve had a flu-shot annually for many years, I don’t know if the last 3 years was the high-dose or not(?). But I woke with a strong headache today, and it has persisted in spite of Advil. I don’t recall EVER having a reaction to flu vaccine before this. I’m just glad it’s as mild as my headache compared to the mild case of influenza others have reported here.