The Herald Bulletin

October 8, 2013

A shot in the arm

New vaccines, more options join arsenal to battle seasonal illness

By Traci L. Moyer
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — Sonny Woods did not even flinch when pharmacist Mike Patel slid the needle into his upper arm.

“Don’t be afraid of it,” Woods, 68, of Anderson said of the flu shot. “I did not feel a thing.”

The flu vaccine Woods received will protect against three of the four influenza viruses that are being predicted for 2013-2014. Patel, pharmacy manager for Pay Less, 1845 N. Scatterfield Road, said the shot given to Woods, a traditional vaccine, and a high dose vaccine for those over 65 are the only two being offered at his location.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are several flu vaccines available for this year’s flu season. The agency says everyone between older than six months should receive the flu vaccine.

Most people will receive the standard flu vaccine like Woods. This vaccine is used by growing the flu virus in eggs and then the vaccine is injected into a muscle of the upper arm. It will protect against two influenza A viruses and one influenza B virus. The vaccine is approved for children 6 months and older.

This year a four-strain vaccine is being offered that fights a second influenza B virus. According to officials, flu virus manufacturers are hoping to change from the three-strain vaccine to this new vaccine.

High-dose vaccines, which Patel said is offered at Pay Less, contains about four times the antigens than the regular flu vaccine. This vaccine is recommended for those 65 and over.

Jeremy Havens, 34, New Castle, said he avoids getting the flu vaccine because he hates needles.

“I have never liked needles,” Havens said. “Not at the dentist, not anywhere.”Havens, who was in Anderson visiting family, said he knows he needs to get the vaccine, he just wants to get it without having to get a shot.

“I would be more inclined to do it if there were alternatives to doing it,” he said.

A nasal spray vaccine is available for those between the ages of 2 and 49 who do not like needles. The vaccine is squirted into the nasal passage and has been manufactured to protect against all four strains.

There is also an “ouch-free” vaccine that can be injected into the skin rather than the muscle. The needle used for this vaccine is about 90 percent smaller than the one used in traditional flu vaccines and it will protect against three strains of the influenza.

Some people are allergic to eggs and the flu vaccine has not been an option for these people because of the way the flu vaccine is produced, but this year the CDC says there is an egg-free flu vaccine. The virus is only for people between the ages of 18 and 94.

Patel said some people will not get a flu shot because they think it will give them the flu.

“It cannot cause flu,” he said. “The side effects can mimic flu symptoms, but you won’t get it from the vaccine.”

T.J. Kellem, 26, Anderson, is one of the people who believes the flu shot will make you sick.

“I would rather take my chances if I get sick,” he said.

Dispelling the myth that flu vaccines give people the flu, a randomized, blind study, was conducted by the CDC where some people were given flu shots and others received shots of saltwater. The study found that the only differences in symptoms between those receiving the saltwater and the vaccine was an increased soreness in the arm and redness at the injection site among people who got the flu shot. According to the CDC, there were no differences in terms of body aches, fever, cough, runny nose or sore throat.

Patel said it is important to be vaccinated against the flu.

“You are better off getting a shot because if it turns into pneumonia, it gets worse,” he said.

Don Rainer, Anderson, 82, said he gets his shot every year.

“I used to think when I put my scarves away for the winter that I could get the flu from them the following year,” he said with a smile. “I always get sick in March and October.”

He said that the flu vaccine prevents him from getting sick and the older he gets the harder it is to fight the flu.

“If I could get a flu shot in my other arm, I would," he said with a laugh. “You know - double indemnity.”

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Vaccinating against the flu

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is especially important for the following people to receive a flu vaccination: ◆ People who are at high risk of developing serious complications, like pneumonia, if they get sick with the flu. ◆ People who have certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease. ◆ Pregnant women. ◆ People younger than 5 years  -especially those younger than 2 - and people 65 years and older. ◆ Household contacts and caregivers of people with certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease. ◆ Household contacts and caregivers of infants less than 6 months old. ◆ Health care personnel.

Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention