The idea that you could become a flu shot connoisseur is kind of mind-blowing, but it’s true. This year, such offerings as egg-free flu shots and four-in-one vaccines (flu vaccines that protect against four different strains of influenza, rather than just three) will be available for the first time.
The flu is a contagious respiratory infection caused by influenza viruses that can cause mild to severe illness. Influenza can result in hospitalization and, in some cases, death, and the best way to prevent it is to be vaccinated. That’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that nearly all Americans six months and older get the flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available in the fall. According to the CDC, individuals who could develop serious complications like pneumonia if they get the flu, including people with asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease; pregnant women; and people over 65, should make the influenza vaccine a high priority.
The CDC encourages three categories of people to consult a physician before getting a flu vaccine: people who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination, babies under six months and people with a history of Guillain–Barré Syndrome.
Types of Flu Vaccine:
There are two types of flu vaccines: nasal sprays, which are made with live, weakened flu virus, and flu shots, which are inactivated vaccines containing killed virus given with a needle.
Nasal Spray Flu Vaccines
Nasal spray flu vaccines are given to healthy people ages 2 to 49 who are not pregnant. You simply inhale the vaccine, and you’re done.
Three types of flu shots are given in the United States: regular seasonal flu shots, a high-dose vaccine for people 65 and older, and an intradermal vaccine for people 18 to 24 years old.
Regular intramuscular seasonal flu shots are injected into muscle (usually in the upper arm) and are approved for use in people six months of age and older, including healthy people, people with chronic medical conditions and pregnant women. Regular flu shots make up the bulk of U.S. flu vaccinations each year.
Flu Shots for Seniors
The high-dose vaccine for people 65 and older is also intramuscular and has been available since 2010. Called Fluzone High-Dose, it offers quadruple the standard amount of vaccine—the idea being to help the immune systems of older people to respond to the vaccine.
Fluzone Intradermal, the intradermal vaccine for people 18 to 64 years of age, was first available in 2011 and is injected into the skin with a needle. This can be a good option for people who don’t qualify for the nasal spray but hate regular shots.
Egg-Free Flu Vaccines
The CDC used to recommend that people with severe allergies to chicken eggs check with their doctors before being vaccinated for influenza, but this year an egg-free vaccine is available for the first time. Flublok, for use in adults ages 18 to 49, is made using the same manufacturing process as many other non-influenza vaccines. Traditionally, flu vaccines are produced using strains of the virus or eggs, so Flublok represents a technological advance in the production of influenza vaccines.
Four-In-One Flu Vaccines
Also new this year are quadrivalent flu vaccines—vaccines that protect against four strains of influenza, rather than the usual three. This year, the nasal spray versions of the flu vaccine will all be quadrivalent vaccines, named FluMist Quadrivalent, and several shots will be available, named Fluzone Quadrivalent, Fluarix Quadrivalent and FluLaval Quadrivalent.
About two weeks after you get vaccinated, antibodies develop to protect you from infection by the influenza virus. Flu vaccines don’t protect against flu-like illnesses caused by non-influenza viruses.
The CDC recommends getting vaccinated in early autumn—September or as soon as the vaccine is available. Flu season typically peaks in January or February. Most insurance plans cover the flu vaccine, and some don’t even require a copayment. Drugstore vaccines typically cost about $30.
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