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November 2010 Archives : The Hotline

Hot Topic - Flu Shot

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IMF Hotline Coordinators, (left to right): Paul Hewitt, Missy Klepetar, Nancy Baxter and Debbie Birns

In recent weeks we've noticed an upswing in patients calling us (the IMF's Hotline) wondering if they can get a flu shot and if so, which one to get - the regular shot or this new "high-dose" one recommended for patients 65 and older.  

OK.  Here's the deal, blog readers!  

The flu vaccine is not a live virus and is therefore safe for myeloma patients. It is recommended annually. If one is undergoing a stem cell transplant, they should be immunized prior to, and 6 months after the procedure - (Pomeroy, MD and Oken, MD - Mayo Clinic).

This year, both the regular flu vaccine and the high dose vaccine protect against three influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. Both will protect against 2009 H1N1, and two other influenza viruses (an H3N2 virus and an influenza B virus). The high-dose vaccine is approved for use in people 65 years of age and older. Human immune defenses become weaker with age, which places older people at greater risk of severe illness from influenza. The high dose vaccine contains 4 times the amount of antigen contained in the regular flu shot, to create a stronger immune response.   

We spoke with one of our scientific advisors about myeloma patients receiving the high-dose flu vaccine, and this is what he said:

Model of Influenza Virus from NIH

Image via Wikipedia

It is still "early days" for the high-dose vaccination and we don't have full data on it yet.  I
t is possible there could be more side effects that result from getting this higher-dose shot. If a patient 65 or older has had the flu shot before with no complications, it is probably OK for them to get the high-dose shot, but as always, they should talk to their doctors about it first.  If a patient has never had the flu shot before, they should probably get the "regular" seasonal one, because of the potential side effects.

For more information about the Fluzone High Dose Vaccine, please visit the CDC's Questions and Answers page - http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/qa_fluzone.htm#what_fluzone
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