A wolf in sheep’s clothing: Are you underestimating the burden of flu?


Posted: November 22, 2023 | Word Count: 1,573

By Dr. Peter Sebeny

In today’s pop culture, the term “pandemic” is synonymous with COVID-19. However, over the course of human history, some of the deadliest pandemics have been caused by the influenza (flu) virus.1

Since then, the scientific community has pursued groundbreaking advancements in improving protection against the flu.1 We know more about influenza viruses than ever before and have developed the capacity to design, manufacture and distribute vaccines and antiviral drugs.1 However, flu shot public health guidance has been overshadowed in recent years with increased public health messaging around COVID-19 and more recently, RSV. The flu has become an afterthought for many people, and this upcoming 2023-2024 flu season may present a severe threat as the U.S. could face a resurgence of flu.2

Understanding the flu and its complications

“The flu” has been a common name for decades, so many people may downplay the potential threats hiding in plain sight, like a wolf in sheep’s clothing – but the flu is more serious than people may think.3 The flu can lead to or worsen potentially life-threatening flu-related complications, including pneumonia, heart attack, stroke, and hospitalization, especially in older adults.3,4

Receiving a flu shot each year can help protect yourself from flu and its complications.5,6 Flu vaccination has also been shown to help reduce the risk of getting sick with flu and help reduce the risk of having a serious flu outcome, like requiring a stay in the hospital or even being admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU).7

A seasonal flu vaccination is especially important for older adults who are at an increased risk for serious flu-related complications.8

Improving flu protection for older adults

Anyone can get the flu, but certain groups – including people who are pregnant, have certain chronic health conditions or are age 65 and older – are at an increased risk of flu-related complications.8

During most flu seasons, older adults bear the greatest burden of severe flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates between 70-85% of seasonal flu-related deaths and 50-70% of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations since 2010 have occurred among people 65 years and older.9

In 2022, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) granted preferential recommendation for the use of Fluzone High-Dose® Quadrivalent (Influenza Vaccine), Flublok® Quadrivalent (Influenza Vaccine) and an adjuvanted flu vaccine for adults age 65 years and older. The recommendation was reaffirmed in 2023.10,11

Sanofi’s two higher-dose influenza vaccines, Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent and Flublok Quadrivalent, have shown better flu protection than standard-dose flu shots in older adults.12,13

Flublok Quadrivalent and Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent are indicated for immunization against disease caused by influenza A and B strains contained in the vaccine. Flublok Quadrivalent is given to people 18 years of age and older. Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent is given to people 65 years of age and older.

Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent (Influenza Vaccine) has been licensed for use in adults 65 years of age and older and has demonstrated superior efficacy in a randomized controlled trial versus a standard-dose Fluzone® (Influenza Vaccine) for the prevention of laboratory-confirmed influenza illness.

Study Design: Based on a clinical trial of ~32,000 adults 65+ conducted during 2 flu seasons, 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, where an influenza case was laboratory tested.

Compared with Fluzone, the most common side effects were slightly more frequent and included pain and redness where you got the shot, muscle ache, and headache.

Flublok Quadrivalent (Influenza Vaccine) has been licensed for use in adults 18 years of age and older and has proven to be 30% more effective than a Fluarix® Quadrivalent (Influenza Vaccine) in preventing flu in adults 50+.

Study Design: Randomized, controlled clinical trial of ~9,000 adults 50+ conducted during 2014-2015 flu (or influenza) season.

In adults 50 years of age and older, the most common side effects were pain and/or tenderness at the injection site, headache, and tiredness.

This vulnerable population may require better protection that a standard-dose vaccine may not provide.9,10,11

Making a plan to get your flu shot

Fortunately, the global public health landscape has come a long way since 1919 and we are more prepared than ever to help prevent illness, hospitalization and death from flu. To help protect our communities from another dangerous flu pandemic, the CDC recommends people age six months and older get a yearly flu vaccine with rare exception.5 Many local health departments and clinics offer low cost or free flu vaccinations, and most health insurance plans cover recommended vaccines at little to no cost.14

Visit SanofiFluShots.com to find the Sanofi flu shot provider nearest you and learn more about your flu vaccine options. Older adults, particularly those with one or more chronic health conditions, should speak to their healthcare provider about Sanofi flu vaccine options that may be right for them, which may include Sanofi’s Fluzone® High-Dose Quadrivalent (Influenza Vaccine) or Flublok® Quadrivalent (Influenza Vaccine).6,9,12,13

Sanofi flu vaccines are available at Walgreens, Kroger, Albertsons and Walmart nationwide. Schedule an appointment and/or drop into your local store’s pharmacy to request yours today.

What are FLUBLOK® QUADRIVALENT (INFLUENZA VACCINE) and FLUZONE® HIGH-DOSE QUADRIVALENT (INFLUENZA VACCINE)?

Flublok Quadrivalent and Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent are indicated for immunization against disease caused by influenza A and B strains contained in the vaccine. Flublok Quadrivalent is given to people 18 years of age and older. Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent is given to people 65 years of age and older.

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION

Flublok Quadrivalent and Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent should not be given to anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to any component of the vaccine (including egg protein for Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent). In addition, Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent should not be given to anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction after previous dose of any influenza vaccine.

Tell your health care provider if you have ever had Guillain-Barré syndrome (severe muscle weakness) after a previous influenza vaccination.

If Flublok Quadrivalent and Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent are given to people with a compromised immune system, including those receiving therapies that suppress the immune system, the immune response may be lower than expected.

Vaccination with Flublok Quadrivalent and Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent may not protect all people who receive the vaccine.

For Flublok Quadrivalent, in adults 18 through 49 years of age, the most common side effects were tenderness, and/or pain where you got the shot; headache, tiredness, muscle aches, and joint pain. In adults 50 years of age and older the most common side effects were tenderness, and/or pain where you got the shot; headache, and tiredness.

For Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent, in adults 65 years of age and older, the most common side effects were pain, redness, and/or swelling where you got the shot; muscle aches, headache, and general discomfort.

For Flublok Quadrivalent and Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent, other side effects may occur.

For more information, talk to your health care professional and refer to the full Prescribing Information for Flublok Quadrivalent or Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent. Also, please see complete Patient Information for Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent.

References

  1. Institute of Medicine (US) Forum on Microbial Threats; Knobler SL, Mack A, Mahmoud A, et al., editors. The Threat of Pandemic Influenza: Are We Ready? Workshop Summary. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2005. 1, The Story of Influenza. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK22148/
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Key Facts About Influenza (Flu). Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/keyfacts.htm. Accessed September 2023.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Who Needs a Flu Vaccine. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/vaccinations.htm. Accessed September 2023.
  4. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Flu Symptoms & Complications. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/symptoms.htm. Accessed October 2023.
  5. Dunkle, Lisa, Izikson, Ruvim, et al. Efficacy of Recombinant Influenza Vaccine in Adults 50 Years of Age or Older. N Engl J Med 2017. 376:2427-2436. Accessed October 2023.
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People at Higher Risk of Flu Complications. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/index.htm. Accessed September 2023.
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flu & People 65 Years and Older. Available at: https://cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/65over.htm. Accessed September 2023.
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices — United States, 2023–24 Influenza Season. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/72/rr/rr7202a1.htm?s_cid=rr7202a1_w Accessed September 2023.
  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ACIP Flu Meeting Update: Flu Vaccines Worked Better than Reported & ACIP Recommends Specific Vaccines for Seniors. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/spotlights/2021-2022/specific-vaccines-seniors.htm. Accessed September 2023.
  10. Fluzone High Dose Quadrivalent [Prescribing Information]. Swiftwater, PA: Sanofi. Accessed September 2023.
  11. Flublok Quadrivalent [Prescribing Information]. Swiftwater, PA: Sanofi. Accessed September 2023.
  12. National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. Flu and Older Adults. Available at: https://www.nfid.org/infectious-diseases/flu-and-older-adults/
  13. Dhanasekaran, V., Sullivan, S., Edwards, K.M. et al. Human seasonal influenza under COVID-19 and the potential consequences of influenza lineage elimination. Nat Commun 13, 1721 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-29402-5. Accessed July 2023.
  14. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Immunization. Getting Vaccinated. Hot to Pay. Available at: https://www.hhs.gov/immunization/get-vaccinated/pay/index.html. Accessed September 2023.

MAT-US-2309132-v1.0-10/2023

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