For the first time, there will be a vaccine which protects against four strains of the flu virus. Until now, flu vaccines have only protected against three forms of the virus.
Each year, scientists choose what they believe will be the three most common forms of the flu to spread during the winter months, and they incorporate them into the annual vaccine. This year's new vaccine containing four varieties has those three flu forms and an additional version of the virus.
"The real need for the vaccine with four flu viruses comes if that additional virus begins to circulate," says Clark Kebodeaux, Pharm.D., BCACP, assistant professor of pharmacy practice at St. Louis College of Pharmacy. "At this early point, it's not certain what types of flu will cause the most illnesses."
Vaccines will be available through two forms of injections and a nasal spray.
"If parents want to ensure that their children receive the new style of vaccine, ask for a nasal spray instead of an injection," Kebodeaux says. "The four strain vaccine is available by injection as well, but some injections only include the three strain vaccine. Going forward after this year, we'll know if the additional protection is necessary."
Adults with egg allergies have a new option as well. An egg-free version of the vaccine is available, but it is only for adults ages 18 to 49.
Kebodeaux adds that older adults, and those with chronic conditions like diabetes and asthma, need to receive an injection as soon as the vaccines arrive. The high-dose version of the vaccine for older adults protects against three versions of the flu virus.
"I encourage everyone to get any version of the flu vaccine," Kebodeaux says. "There will be plenty for everyone."
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