More vaccine options make flu protection easier than ever


Now you have more to choose from when it comes to getting a flu shot.  Vaccination against the influenza virus is the most effective method for preventing the flu and its complications like pneumonia.  Vaccine experts agree that everyone older than 6 months of age should get an annual flu vaccine. This recommendation is supported by evidence that influenza vaccination is safe with potential benefit across all age groups.

There are four flu vaccines available: The first three vaccines contain kill virus made up of three different kinds of flu.  They are called Trivalent Inactivated Vaccine (TIV) because they have three types of killed flu viruses specially chosen for the current flu season. 


These three are given by a needle and have important differences:


  1. The regular vaccine that is given into the arm muscle is approved for people six months of age and older, including healthy people, those with chronic medical conditions, and pregnant women.
  2. A “high dose” vaccine, also given into the arm muscle, and containing four times the concentration of important ingredients as the regular TIV, that is approved for use in people 65 and older. It was introduced in 2009-2010.
  3. An intradermal vaccine that is given into the surface of the skin with a microinjection syringe that has a much smaller and shorter needle.  The intradermal vaccine was approved for use in people 18 through 64 years of age in 2011.


The last vaccine still has the same three types of flu virus but they are not killed, but rather weakened.  These weak, or attenuated, viruses are not strong enough to make a healthy person sick, but they are active enough to help protect you from the full strength flu that gets passed around from person to person.  This vaccine is known as:


  1. Live, Attenuated Intranasal Influenza Vaccine (LAIV) – this is given as a nasal spray and can be used in healthy people who are ages two to 49 years and are not pregnant.


Many influenza vaccines from various manufacturers are available during the 2011-2012 flu season.  All of the vaccines prevent the same types of flu, so there is no preferential recommendation.  Ask your doctor for advice since the choice of which vaccine depends upon your age, your personal preferences, and any underlying health conditions. 

Beyond the vaccine, there is a lot you can do to avoid the flu and prevent it from spreading.  You and your family should stay home if sick with a fever, allow employees to go home if feverish, wash your hands with soap or use germ killing hand gels, sneeze into your elbow, and keep your finders away from your eyes and nose.

Flu season usually peaks in February and March, so stay healthy and protect yourself.


Daniel Haight, MD, FACP

Polk County Medical Association Member


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