MANKATO — The latest and potentially most powerful flu vaccine will be available in the Mankato area, but there won't be much of it to go around.
Capable of combating four different flu strains, the so-called “quadravalent” vaccine will be available this flu season mostly in the form of a nasal spray. (The shot form is available for patients 18 and younger.)
The vast majority of vaccine available with be the typical “trivalent” vaccine, which combats three different flu strains: two A strains and one B strain.
Brad Krier, a Minnesota Department of Health epidemiologist based in Mankato, said last year's vaccine was a “pretty good match,” and that it proved effective about 60 percent of the time.
The A strain causes more serious flu cases, so vaccine engineers include vaccine to combat two types of the A strain. Type B typically is a milder strain. Last year, though, was a particularly aggressive flu virus across both strains. That prompted vaccine makers to include two types of both in a new quadravalent vaccine.
Krier, however, said there is no proof that this new one will be any more effective than the trivalent vaccine that will be available to anyone. But government officials are hoping it will.
“It makes sense to say we're adding another strain, it should provide more protection. But we don't have a lot of clinical evidence to say. Is adding another strain going to increase protection? We believe so.”
Last year, the flu hit south-central Minnesota hard. The Department of Health called it a “hot spot” for flu, resulting in 23 fatalities and 218 hospitalized cases. Statewide, there were 210 flu deaths and more than 3,000 hospitalized cases.
Knowing how prevalent the flu virus was in this part of the state, the state is working with local health providers to monitor flu cases this year, Krier said.