We're now arriving at that time of year again when antibiotic gels and tissues are ever close at hand and businesses keep tacking up notices advising us that flu shots are available inside, right there along with our family docs. And we should all take advantage of their largesse, as the more folks who get vaccinated, the fewer people spreading the flu around.
Unlike most years, though, this time around there is a “dizzying” array” to choose from:
- TRADITIONAL FLU SHOTS: This type protects against three influenza viruses (trivalent): two types of influenza A and one type of influenza B. It’s typically administered via a needle into an arm and is recommended for those six months and older.
- NASAL-SPRAY FLU VACCINE: This one is made with live but weakened flu viruses and is quadravent, which means it contains four instead of the typical three strains of influenza. It’s approved for those between 2 and 49, but not for those who are pregnant.
- QUADRAVENT VACCINES: Making an appearance for the first time, this vaccine protects against four strains of influenza viruses rather than the typical three. That means that, along with the three in the trivalent vaccine, this one adds a second strain of influenza B for broader protection. About 30 million will be available.
- CELL-CULTURE VACCINES: Unlike the traditional cultured-in-an-egg vaccine, here the viruses are grown in animal cells, thus making it ideal for those with egg allergies; it's available for those over 18. An added plus: No more waiting for chickens to lay their eggs.
- RECOMBINANT VACCINES: Thanks to genetic engineering, this new FluBlok vaccine is also egg-free and has been approved for those between 18 and 49. Here, only a small piece of the virus is used—a hemagglutinin protein. It's grown in a cell, is purified, and then put into a vaccine.
- HIGH-DOSE VACCINES: This one has been approved for those 65 and older, as their weakened immune systems leave them at greater risk of death from the flu. This type is loaded with four times the usual amount of “immunity-producing antigens.” And while the result might be a bit more soreness at the injection site, that just means it's working.
- INTRADERMAL SHOTS: This one is perfect for needle-shy folks as it uses a shorter needle that just penetrates the skin rather than entering the muscle like the traditional flu shot. Plus, since it delivers a lower dose of the vaccine there’s less chance of a reaction. This type has been approved for those between 18 and 64.
And speaking of reactions, there’s really little risk of serious harm. Some, however, do experience such minor problems as noted here by the CDC:
- headaches, upper respiratory tract infection (about 1 person in 3)
- stuffy nose, sore throat, joint pain (about 1 person in 6)
- abdominal pain, cough, nausea (about 1 person in 7)
- diarrhea (about 1 person in 10)
- fever (about 1 person in 100)
Bottom line: With all these choices and such minor side effects, there’s no reason to forego getting your shot this year. And if still not sure which type is best for you, just follow your doctor’s advice. Do it soon, though, so you’ll be assured of protection all flu season long.