Thursday, October 3, 2013

Flu Shots for Everyone

Last year, four influenza vaccines were available to the public. But as technology expands – so do the options and six different flu vaccines will be available this season. “Instead of a one-size fits all approach, we are moving to vaccines…for individual patients,” states Dr. Greg Poland, director of the Mayo Clinic Vaccine Research Group.  “The flip side of that,” he continues, “is that this will be a confusing year.” Doctors and patients may have questions about which vaccine is best for them.

The six vaccines available include: an egg-free shot, a micro-needle shot, a nasal spray, a high-dosage shot, and two forms of the standard shot. The egg-free shot is for those with egg allergies, the micro-needle shot is for people afraid of needles – it is less painful and only penetrates the skin. The nasal spray is for toddlers and children, while the high-dosage shot is for senior citizens. The standard shot comes in a three-strain version and a four-strain version. The four-strain version can cost up to 30% more than the three-strain version.

Statistics report that up to 20% of the U.S. population gets sick with the flu every year. By creating new shots that reach more people, medical professionals hope to get more than the usual 40% of the population immunized this year. Dr. Michael Shaw of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that in a few years, all of the vaccines will offer the four-strain protection at a standard price, and concludes that more vaccine options will lead to fewer flu cases. Fewer flu cases can save both lives and health care costs.

CDC states that approximately 24,000 people die from the flu each year and recommend the vaccine for nearly everyone 6 months and older. An estimated 139 million does of flu vaccine will be produced this year, with 30 million of those being the four-strain flu virus. The CDC estimates that as many as 485 deaths will be prevented by the four-strain vaccine.

In an effort to encourage vaccination, medical professionals across the country are getting creative. For instance, Vanderbilt University hosted its third annual Flulapalooza on September 25th. The event lasts for twelve hours and offers free flu vaccines to faculty, staff and students.

Most health insurance programs and Medicare cover flu shots and some plans don’t require a co-pay. This simple preventative measure can save you from battling a nasty case of the flu or ending up in the hospital. Vaccine Watch encourages everyone to consult his or her physician about getting a flu shot this fall.

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