May 22, 2019 by John Fernandez and Tanya Racoobian
3 Ways This Year’s Flu Shots Are Different
Each year on average, 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from seasonal flu-related complications. Some of the most common flu-related complications include pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections. Young children, older adults, pregnant women and those who have certain medical conditions are at highest risk of developing complications from the virus.
The single best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine, and everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated each year, recommends the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Contrary to an often stated belief, it is not possible to get the flu from the flu vaccine,” said Paul Di Capua, M.D., a Baptist Health Medical Group physician with Baptist Health Primary Care Family Medicine Center at West Kendall Baptist Hospital.
The severity of the flu season changes from year to year depending on how many people get vaccinated, when and how much flu vaccine is available, and how well the vaccine is matched to the flu viruses that are spreading.
Here are three ways flu vaccines for the 2015-2016 flu season are different:
1. More Coverage – This year’s flu vaccines have been updated to better match the predominant strains of viruses that are expected to circulate. They are made up of antibodies that protect against three and four types of viruses. All of them protect against two type A viruses and one type B virus. The vaccines that protect against four provide protection against an additional type B virus.
“Some people get sick during flu season even after getting the vaccine because they were exposed to a flu virus before getting vaccinated or before their body gained protection after getting vaccinated,” Dr. Di Capua said. “And there’s always a chance you can be exposed to a flu virus that was not included in this year’s vaccine.”
2. More Options – The traditional needle isn’t the only way to get vaccinated against the flu. Flu vaccines can be delivered in other ways. A nasal spray is available and recommended for people ages 2 through 49. A jet injector is a needle-free device that uses high pressure to push the vaccine through the skin. It is available to people who are 18 through 64 years old. An intradermal shot uses a smaller needle to inject the vaccine into the skin instead of the muscle. It is less painful and only approved for people 18 through 64 years of age. There is also an egg-free flu vaccine for people ages 18 and older who are allergic to eggs.
3. More Access – In additional to doctors’ offices, there are a number of places offering flu vaccines. Local pharmacies, clinics, health departments and some workplaces and schools are making vaccinations available.
“While the flu vaccine does not guarantee you won’t get sick this flu season, it is the best protection you can give yourself and your loved ones,” Dr. Di Capua said.