Changes Coming To Flu Shots This Season: What You Need To Know

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – It’s time to talk about flu shots.

It’s that time of year again – the one some needle-phobes hate, but could save your life.

As CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reports, there’s plenty of supply this year, but there are some important changes in the types of vaccines available.

Unfortunately for kids and adults who hate needles, the nasal spray vaccine is no longer recommended.

To debunk some flu shot myths: You cannot get the flu from the vaccine; it’s made with dead flu virus. And while the vaccine may not be perfect, it does work well.

The annual push to get as many Americans as possible vaccinated against influenza is happening at clinics, pharmacies, doctors’ offices and senior centers all over the country. Experts think this season could be serious, because of what the flu was just like in the Southern Hemisphere.

“This summer, it was winter in the Southern Hemisphere down in Australia. And they had a very bad flu season. And that sometimes predicts what will happen here,” Dr. William Schaffner, from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said.

Schaffner is a nationally recognized vaccine expert who says there’s a strong reason to get vaccinated this year.

“It looks like we have a very good match between what’s in the vaccines we’re using now,” he said. “We anticipate that the dominant strain will be a so-called H3N2 strain. And I mention that because it causes more severe illness generally, but especially in older persons – people age 65 and older. More hospitalizations and I’m afraid more deaths.”

That strain is in all the vaccines this year, but there are some options. Some vaccines contain three strains of the virus. But a newer type, called the quadrivalent vaccine, adds a fourth strain to provide wider protection. Both are good, but ask for quadrivalent, if possible, Dr. Max recommends.

Another change this year is there are two types of fly shots specifically formulated for people aged 65 and older.

“Because their immune systems don’t respond as well to the vaccine and many of them have underlying diseases like diabetes, heart disease, lung disease. So these vaccines improve the immune response in people age 65 and older and provide better protection,” Schaffner said.

Finally, if you need another reason to get vaccinated…

“Overall, there was about a 33 percent reduction in risk for heart attacks, strokes and other major cardiovascular events in those who received the flu shot,” said Dr. Jacob A. Udell, of the University of Toronto.

With all those options, what’s the best flu shot for you? It’s whichever one you actually get. Don’t put off getting a shot because you can’t find the perfect one. Any flu vaccine will provide good protection. So roll up your sleeve.

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