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Q: For older adults, does CDC recommend the high-dose shot?

A: The immune system weakens with age so that it doesn’t respond as well to an ordinary flu shot. Sanofi’s Fluzone High-Dose is a standard into-the-muscle shot but it contains four times the usual dose, to spur more immune response in people 65 and older. First sold last year, studies still are under way to track if that translates into fewer illnesses and hospitalizations. It can cause more of the typical flu-shot side effects. The CDC says it’s OK for seniors to choose either a high-dose shot or the regular shots from a variety of manufacturers.

Q: Who’s at highest risk from the flu?

A: Young children, anyone 50 or older, anyone with chronic medical conditions such as asthma and certain heart or kidney problems, and pregnant women. A flu vaccination during pregnancy has the added benefit of passing some protection to the baby.

Q: When should I get vaccinated?

A: Anytime, but it takes about two weeks for protection to kick in. Flu typically starts circulating around November, and peaks around January. Some chain pharmacies started vaccinating a month ago. Next month, Hawaii begins offering free in-school vaccinations for elementary and middle school students.

Don’t put it off too long, says Dr. Scott Gorenstein of Great Neck, N.Y., an emergency physician whose own son Nate, then 4, nearly died of flu during the 2009 pandemic. The boy already had been exposed by the time vaccine finally was available that fall. Now, Gorenstein says the whole family gets inoculated in early fall _ even though Nate has developed a vaccine allergy and as a precaution checks into the hospital for his dose.

“We got lucky,” says Gorenstein, who now advises a group called Families Fighting Flu. “You just don’t want to be a statistic that is preventable.”


EDITOR’S NOTE _ Lauran Neergaard covers health and medical issues for The Associated Press.