Your Flu Vaccine Options

The flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself from the flu. Just a few years ago, we had only one option - the traditional flu shot. Today, there are multiple vaccine options. Find out which one is right for you.

Seasonal Flu Shot

Flu vaccines. Peter Ardito/Photolibrary/Getty Images

The traditional seasonal flu shot has been around for a long time and is still the most commonly used option for the flu vaccine. Approved for use in nearly everyone over the age of 6 months, it is injected into ​a muscle (typically the deltoid - in the upper arm) and takes about two weeks to be fully effective.

The traditional flu shot should not be used in people with a history of:

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Nasal Spray Flu Vaccine

In the summer of 2016, the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to recommend against the use of the Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine (LAIV), also known as FluMist, due to concerns about efficacy. Studies showed that it was not effective at preventing the flu during the previous two flu seasons. The American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement supporting this decision. The nasal spray flu vaccine will likely not be available in most places during the 2016-2017 flu season.  

The nasal spray flu vaccine, called FluMist, can be given to healthy people ages 2 to 49. Since it is a nasal spray, it is a great option for people who really don't like shots.

FluMist should not be used in people with:

  • History of asthma, reactive airway disease or recurring wheezing
  • Chronic medical conditions
  • Weakened immune systems
  • Caregivers of those with seriously compromised immune systems
  • Pregnant women
  • Children or adolescents on aspirin therapy
  • History of Guillain-Barre syndrome

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Intradermal Flu Vaccine

The Fluzone Intradermal flu vaccine is administered with a needle that is 90% smaller than the one used for the traditional flu shot. Fluzone is approved for adults ages 18 to 64.

It should not be given to people with a history of:

  • Severe egg allergy
  • Allergy to any other vaccine components
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome

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High-Dose Flu Vaccine

The high-dose flu vaccine was developed specifically for adults over the age of 65, who may not respond as well to the traditional flu shot. This vaccine contains four times more antigen than the regular flu shot. Antigen is the part of the vaccine that stimulates our bodies to create antibodies to fight off viruses.

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Quadrivalent Flu Vaccine

New for the 2013-14 flu season, some flu shots and all nasal spray flu vaccines will contain four strains of the flu instead of the traditional three. Traditionally, the flu vaccine has contained two strains of influenza A and one strain of influenza B. The quadrivalent vaccine contains two strains of influenza A and two strains of influenza B. The CDC has not endorsed one type of flu vaccine over another.

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The Future of Flu Vaccines

There are two flu vaccines that are in development or are not available to the general public that you should know about.

The universal flu vaccine is what many scientists and public health officials hope will bring an end to the need for yearly flu vaccines.

The avian (bird) flu vaccine has been developed but is not available to the general public because there is no widespread outbreak. Currently, the vaccine is being held in the Strategic National Stockpile in case it is needed.

Where to Find Flu Vaccines

Now that you know what your flu vaccine options are, you need to know where to find one. If you have chronic health conditions, your best option is probably your healthcare provider because he or she knows your health history and can help you decide which option is best for you. However, there are plenty of other places where flu vaccines are available; at many of them, you don't even need an appointment!

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