Niagara Gazette

September 17, 2013

New flu vaccine issued this year

By Danielle Haynes danielle.haynes@tonawanda-news.com
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — School is back in session, the weather’s getting a little chilly and Halloween candy is already on the shelves, and that means one thing: Flu season is yet again upon us.

For some, that means it’s time to start thinking about getting the flu vaccination, and this year there’s a change in store. For the first time ever, one version of the flu vaccine will cover four strains of the virus instead of the traditional three strains.

Traditional flu vaccines — called trivalent — inoculate people against two A-type strains and two B-type strains. This year’s vaccine protects against A-types H1N1 — swine flu — and H3N2, and the B-type B/Massachusetts/2/2012-like virus, the Centers for Disease Control Prevention website says.

The new quadrivalent vaccine inoculates against the same three strains this year, but also includes the B-type B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus.

But Frank Heinrich, the lead clinical pharmacist for Kenmore Mercy Hospital, warned consumers who might want to rush out to get the new vaccine might come up short. There’s likely to be a shortage of the four-strain vaccine because the manufacturer that created it didn’t release it until after most pharmacies — like the one at Kenmore Mercy — have already put in their orders for the year in January and February.

Kenmore Mercy will be inoculating all in-patients with the trivalent vaccine, but Heinrich said there’s little cause for concern.

“Type A (flu viruses) are the ones that are the most common,” he said. “The B virus is a lot less common and it doesn’t mutate as readily, therefore it’s not as likely that if you get the flu that it’s due to B.”

The added coverage in the quadrivalent vaccine is for an extra strain of the less-likely B virus.

“People shouldn’t worry about (just) getting the old-style vaccine,” Heinrich said. “Getting a vaccination is the most important thing. Even if you get the trivalent, it still boosts your immune so even if you’re exposed to the extra type B, you may still be able to fight it off.”

Peak flu season is usually between January and February, but Heinrich warns that the virus will likely get started sometime in October and could last until May. The best time to get inoculated, he said, is a couple weeks before flu season begins.

“Once you get vaccinated, it could take two weeks or more until you develop antibodies,” he said.

But, people can still get vaccinated early into next year since the virus still makes the rounds through May.

There’s no worry this year of any shortages of the trivalent vaccine like there was in previous years, Heinrich added.

The CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months old should get the flu vaccine, particularly those who are more susceptible to the virus. Children under the age of 4, adults over the age of 50, people with asthma, the obese, women who will be pregnant during the flu season, and those who have liver, kidney and lung disorders should get vaccinated. 

People who have a severe allergic reaction to chicken eggs, have Guillain-Barré Syndrome or who have had a negative reaction to the flu vaccine in the past should avoid getting vaccinated.

Visit www.cdc.org to view a complete list of who should and shouldn’t get vaccinated, or talk to your doctor.

Contact Sunday Lifestyle editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 4116 or follow her on Twitter at @DanielleHaynes1.