Influenza vaccine options

Which flu vaccine is right for you?

Fall is here and with it comes flu season. It is important that individuals over six months of age get a flu vaccine each year.

The flu vaccine is your best defense against the virus. Not only does it protect you from getting sick, but your family and friends who could contract it from you. Not to mention, flu strains change so it is important to get a new vaccine each year.

There are multiple forms in which you can receive the vaccine, dependent upon your age.

FluMist® (nasal spray)
This year the form of vaccine is quadrivalent, meaning that is has four influenza strains in it – two influenza type A and two influenza type B. It is a live-attenuated virus that causes increased immunogenicity. In other words, it generates a better immune response that lasts longer.

"Individuals ages two to 49 are eligible for the FluMist," said Dr. Diana Burtea, family medicine physician at Community Physician Network. "In fact, this year, it is recommended over the injectible vaccine by the CDC for children ages two to eight."

High-Dose (shot)
This is a trivalent vaccine, meaning it has three influenza strains in it. It is an inactivated injectable and is four times more concentrated than FluMist to achieve a better response in older populations. Those over the age of 65 are eligible for this form of vaccine.

Injectable (shot)
There are both trivalent and quadrivalent forms of the injectible shot available this year. It is available to all individuals older than six months; however, children receiving the vaccine for the first time will need to get two shots - two half doses, one month apart.

"This year, there are both trivalent and quadrivalent forms of this vaccine, so remember to ask your doctor which you or your child is receiving," said Burtea. "I recommend the quadrivalent."

Intradermal (shot)
A trivalent, inactivated injectable, the needle on this form of vaccine is smaller than most and does not go into the skin as deep as the injectible outlined above.

When should you get your vaccine?
Dr. Burtea recommends waiting until at least October to get your vaccine because you get the highest immune response in the first three to six months following the vaccine.

"The 'flu season' generally occurs between October and March, so it's important to wait to get your vaccine until that time - you don't want your immune protection to wear off," said Burtea. "For those under age 65, my recommendation would be to first request the FluMist (if you're eligible), followed by the quadrivalent injectible shot. Anyone over age 65 should receive the high-dose trivalent."

For more information about flu vaccines and other immunizations, visit the Centers for Disease Control website.