New flu shots offer added protection

Patients will have more choices for the seasonal flu shot than ever before and they could be getting more protection.
October 24, 2013 11:03:24 PM PDT
It's the time of year when thousands of people around the Bay Area are getting flu shots. But this time around you have more choices than ever before and you may actually get more protection for the price of rolling up your sleeve.

Dr. Shelley Gordon, M.D., is an infectious disease specialist with California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco.

"Traditionally the flu vaccine has had two of what we call type A vaccine, and one type B vaccine. There is a new vaccine this year that has two A's and two B's," she explains.

Dr. Gordon says the mixture, known as a quadrivalent vaccine, actually protects against four separate flu strains. In addition, drug makers are also offering vaccines tailored specifically for older patients.

"It has a higher dose of the flu antigens in it, and that one induces higher anti-body levels in people over the age of 65," she says. "Testing is going on this year to determine whether it will be more effective than the traditional flu vaccine, but it's expected that it will be so."

Patients who are allergic to egg products also have the choice of an egg-free formulation this year called Flu Block. And if you're needle-phobic, options range from much smaller intradermal needles to Flu Mist, which is an increasingly popular choice among kids.

"For children who have limited exposure to flu in the past, the aerosol vaccine actually works better. And it's a wonderful vaccine for kids," says Dr. Gordon.

The new quadrivalent vaccine is recommended for patients between the ages of 2 and 49. It's available as both a mist and injection. For patient Mary Hicks, the traditional flu shot was just fine.

"I was waiting to get a little sting and kind of jump, but nothing happened. It was just so easy," Hicks says.

Drug makers anticipate that they'll produce about 135 million doses of flu vaccine this year. Of those, only about 30 million doses will be the new quadrivalent variety.


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