Flu season is coming soon, and we will have some other new recommendations this year. We still feel the optimal time to get vaccinated for influenza in San Diego is late October or November because flu season here peaks around January or February, and by vaccinating around November, you will have the most antibodies to protect you around the peak of flu season. However, if you are traveling out of town before November, you can certainly get your vaccine sooner, and some years (like last year!), flu season can come early. The CDC usually recommends getting the flu vaccine right now, as soon as it's available, but that's because they are more concerned about developing "herd immunity" in a community -- if more people are vaccinated early on, there is less chance that influenza hits that community hard later on. That’s different than our recommendation, which is based on the best protection for an individual.
Once again this year, we will be carrying TWO different flu vaccines. We have the usual 4-strain (quadrivalent) flu vaccine that everyone is eligible to receive. We also have a HIGH DOSE 4-strain vaccine called Flublok. This vaccine has three times the amount of antigen for 4 different strains, and studies show that it gives 30% better protection than the usual 4-strain flu vaccine when tested in patients ages 50 and above. We do NOT carry the so-called "senior” flu shot (Fluzone High-Dose) which is usually the one that most pharmacies will try to administer to seniors. Given a choice between Flublok and Fluzone, I would choose Flublok because this vaccine is not grown in eggs (unlike the Fluzone), so it avoids the possible mutations that can occur in egg-grown vaccines that can alter the final product. However, the difference is not huge, so if you can’t get Flublok, the Fluzone High-Dose is certainly a good substitute. Therefore, we are recommending the Flublok vaccine in all patients ages 50 and above, although you certain can get if you under 50 if you choose to. If you get your flu shot elsewhere, please let us know so we can document it in our records.
Most insurances, including Medicare, do cover all flu shots, but if it is not covered, Flublok costs around $80. If you happen to be in the Ximed building on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday starting in October, you can just stop by the office to see if you can get the vaccine. If you want to come in on a Mondays or Thursday, please call us first. If you have questions, please contact our office by phone at 858-452-7040 or through your web portal (accessed through www.sun-md.com).
Update on the NEW COVID-19 Boosters
New COVID-19 booster vaccines are in production and are expect to be released in late September, and everyone should read the information below:
Hopefully that answers your questions. In a couple of weeks, we will send out another letter about the new RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus). We do not recommend it in everyone over age 60, only for certain groups of people. There is no rush to get the vaccine right now, so stay tuned for the update in a couple of weeks!
Wynnshang Sun, M.D.