A pharmacist administers a flu shot to an older adult.

A variety of news outlets have reported that some people are having trouble finding Fluzone High-Dose, the version of the flu vaccine that is specially formulated to produce a more robust immune response in people 65 and older.

And when Consumer Reports called 20 pharmacies across the country, we found that about half had already run out of Fluzone High-Dose, while half had the vaccine in stock.

But a representative for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told CR that it hasn’t had any reports of shortfalls of Fluzone High-Dose. And Nicolas Kressman, a spokesperson for Sanofi Pasteur, the company that manufactures Fluzone High-Dose, says there’s no overall shortage of the vaccine. 

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What people are likely encountering are spot shortages, according to William Schaffner, M.D., professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville.

These may be occurring, in part, because public health officials at the World Health Organization took an extra month to make their recommendation about which strain of the H3N2 flu to include in this year’s vaccine for the northern hemisphere.

H3N2 is a type of influenza A that’s known for causing more severe illness, and for being harder to protect against with the vaccine.

What does this mean for consumers looking for Fluzone High-Dose? Some doctors' offices and pharmacies may have already received—and given out—their full supply for the year, but others may still be expecting more shipments of the vaccine. Kressman told CR that the company has distributed approximately 70 percent of the doses of Fluzone High-Dose ordered by healthcare providers for this year, and is currently shipping the remainder. 

“If people look around a little bit, they ought to be able to find the vaccine,” Schaffner says. He recommends first contacting your doctor’s office or regular pharmacy to see if they have the vaccine you’re looking for in stock. And be aware that you may need to call around to a few places.

If You Can’t Find Fluzone High-Dose

No luck tracking down Fluzone High-Dose? Older adults have other options. 

One is Fluad, another vaccine specially designed for people 65 and older. This vaccine employs an added substance, called an adjuvant, that's designed to elicit a stronger immune response in older adults. 

Fluad’s manufacturer, Seqiris, says it’s manufactured additional doses of the shot to meet increased demand and has already delivered all of its vaccine for this season to healthcare providers.

But it, too, may be a bit challenging to find. Just six of the 20 pharmacies we called told us they carried Fluad (all six, did, however, have it in stock). 

Both Fluzone High-Dose and Fluad have been shown in studies to prevent more flu illnesses than the standard shot in seniors.

But if you run into problems finding a high-dose flu vaccine, don’t put off your flu shot—get the vaccine that’s available. Delaying getting your shot may increase the likelihood that you skip the vaccine altogether, Schaffner says.

And it’s critical for everyone from the age of 6 months on up to get the flu vaccine, especially older adults—who are more vulnerable to serious side effects from the viral infection.

Although the flu shot doesn’t completely protect against the infection, it certainly cuts your risk. And if you contract flu anyway, having had the shot reduces your chances of a serious complication or being hospitalized from flu, Schaffner says. 

If you haven't gotten vaccinated yet, now is the time, he says: “Flu is out there. It’s slowly picking up, so I wouldn’t linger.”