This season, influenza vaccination is not just a choice between a spray or a shot, but also a choice of whether to be protected against three or four strains of the virus.
Until this season, seasonal influenza vaccines only protected against two strains of influenza A — which causes most of the more severe cases — and one strain of influenza B.
Now, drug makers are distributing a vaccine that will protect against a second strain of influenza B, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“CDC bases what they put in the flu vaccine on the previous year’s exposure of the most common types of the flu virus,” said Michael Smith, immunization coordinator for the Alachua County Health Department. “So this year, they actually have two different types of flu vaccine.”
Called quadrivalent vaccines, the new protections will mostly benefit children, who are more susceptible to the added strain, according to the CDC.
The choices don’t stop there. A flu vaccine is also being distributed for those who are allergic to eggs — the medium through which vaccines are usually created and incubated.
Flu season technically begins Oct. 1 and peaks around February, but can sometimes remain active until May. Getting an annual flu shot is recommended by federal health officials because about 24,000 Americans die from the flu each year, according to the CDC.
Trenton resident Stacy Myers said she decided to go to the pharmacy to get a flu shot because a lot of her friends have gotten stick.
“I didn’t realize the vaccine covers more strains, but I guess that’s a good thing. The more the better, right?” Myers said.
Last year, Alachua County’s nationally recognized FluMist program administered 13,000 doses of vaccine to county students and vaccinated 61 percent of students against the influenza virus. This year, the program will incorporate the newest four-strain coverage vaccine, Smith said.
“Basically, the mist and the injectable for children will contain four strands of the most common viruses and for the adults, we only carry three strands of the virus,” Smith said.
Vaccinations are also available on a walk-in basis at most pharmacies, including CVS pharmacy, Publix pharmacy, Winn-Dixie pharmacy and Walmart pharmacy.
Jennifer Sendler, a pharmacist at CVS pharmacy, said CVS pharmacists are specially trained to vaccinate anyone who wants to get the flu shot.
“It’s quick and painless and relatively cheap,” Sendler said.
The vaccine costs $25 through the Alachua County Health Department. If a person has Medicare Part B, there is no charge. Those between the ages of 6 months and 18 years who are uninsured or have Medicaid may receive the vaccine for free on a walk-in basis.
“For the amount of protection you’re getting, the vaccine really is priceless,” Sendler said.