In the past, both the shot and the nasal mist option contained three strains of influenza virus. This year, however, one of the shots will include four strains of flu virus. The nasal mist option has been changed to include four strains of influenza virus, as well.
Additionally, two new flu vaccine choices -- both in shot form -- will be made without any egg proteins in them. That makes them safe for anyone with an egg allergy.
A high-dose shot also will be offered. This flu vaccine contains four times the usual dose. It is particularly well suited to older adults because it can help boost their immune system response to the flu, so they are better protected from the illness.
Finally, individuals who need the shot form of the vaccine but who fear needles will be able to choose to have the vaccine delivered by a “micro-needle.” The tiny needle delivers the vaccine into the skin, rather than into the arm muscle as is done with the traditional shot using a larger needle.
As with all vaccines in the United States, each of these new flu vaccines had to pass very strict safety measures before the Food and Drug Administration allowed them to be licensed and marketed in the U.S. Typically, vaccines are tested in about 10,000 to 40,000 people before they become widely available. It is possible for very rare side effects to surface as more and more people use the vaccines. But in the thousands of individuals who’ve received these vaccines so far, the safety records are the same as the current flu vaccines.
The choices available to you this year with the flu vaccine are examples of medicine becoming more personalized. It’s certainly a change from the one-size-fits-all approach used with the flu vaccine in the past. This means you’ll probably need to sort through the options and talk with your health care provider about what’s right for you. But in the long run, it will be a better fit for each person, depending on their needs, and ultimately will help lead to better health overall. -- Gregory Poland, M.D., Vaccine Research Center, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
(Medical Edge from Mayo Clinic is an educational resource and doesn’t replace regular medical care. E-mail a question to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.mayoclinic.org.)