10 Questions Your Patients Will Ask About This Year’s Flu Shot

Guess what NP’s?  It’s that time of year again…flu season.  The buildup to flu season is always quite a production for everyone. Influenza myths are tossed around, and patients and providers alike share their personal beliefs about the flu shot playing the fine line between procrastinating from being vaccinated but not waiting too long.  Faced with the threat of being forced to wear a mask everyday at work for the next six months, I will be getting my influenza vaccine tomorrow.

It’s important that we nurse practitioners are prepared to debunk influenza vaccine myths and educate about the flu shot.  This year, there are more types of influenza vaccines than ever before making it even more imperative to read-up.  Here are a few questions you can anticipate from your patients regarding the 2014-2015 influenza vaccine.

1. I’ve heard about a newer vaccines this year. How do new flu shots differ from the traditional influenza vaccine?

This year, like last, there are two categories of influenza vaccine available– trivalent and quadrivalent.  The trivalent vaccine is most similar to vaccines in years past protecting from two strains of influenza A and one strain of influenza B.  In the past ten years, half of the time researchers have been wrong in predicting which type of influenza B strain will be most prevalent.  So, beginning last year, they manufactured a quadrivalent vaccine as well protecting from two types of influenza A and two types of influenza B.

2. Where can I find the newer, more protective quadrivalent flu shot?  How much more will it cost than the traditional flu shot?

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While the new flu shot offers more protection against influenza than the traditional trivalent vaccine, there isn’t as much of this vaccine available.  Only 77 million doses out of the total 151 to 159 million doses of influenza vaccine manufactured will be the new, quadrivalent vaccine.  Not all pharmacies will carry this vaccine so patients wishing to receive the newer vaccine should call their pharmacy first to make sure they carry the quadrivalent flu shot.  At most pharmacies, the quadrivalent vaccine costs less than ten dollars more than the trivalent. This may vary depending on insurance.

3.What’s the difference between nasal and injectable influenza vaccines?

The most significant differences between injectable and nasal influenza vaccines are who is eligible to receive them.  The injectable vaccine is available for individuals ages 6 months and older.  The nasal mist may only be used in individuals between the ages of 2 and 49 years old. This year, the CDC is recommending that children ages 2 to 8 years old receive the nasal spray vaccine rather than the injectable form. New research shows that the nasal spray vaccine prevents about 50 percent more cases of the flu than the injectable vaccine in younger children.

4. Can the flu shot make me sick? The flu mist?

Injectable flu vaccine is made with dead influenza virus.  It cannot give you the flu and typically only causes aching to the injection site although some people report generalized body aches or mild fever post-vaccination.  Nasal flu vaccine is made with a weakened virus. While it does not cause the flu, some individuals experience mild flu-like symptoms like runny nose, cough, fever and body aches.

Because it is made with a live virus, the intranasal FluMist should not be given to individuals who have or are living with anyone with a weakened immune system.

5. I have an egg allergy, is the flu vaccine safe for me?

Most likely.  The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology says that the amount of egg protein contained in the flu vaccine is so small it is unlikely to cause a reaction, even in individuals with an egg allergy.  An eggless vaccine called Flublok is available for individuals ages 18 to 49 years old.

6. I’m pregnant, can I get the influenza vaccine?

Yes!  The CDC recommends the flu shot during pregnancy.  Pregnant women have an increased risk of complications from influenza including miscarriage and premature birth.  Also, getting the flu vaccine helps protect the newborn baby after birth.  The nasal mist is not recommended for pregnant women.

7. I’ve heard about a high does influenza vaccine, am I eligible to receive the high this type of flu shot?

The high dose influenza vaccine, Fluzone, is designed for individuals ages 65 and older.  The Fluzone High-Dose vaccine is a quadrivalent vaccine containing four times the amount of influenza antigen compared to the regular flu shot.  This vaccine is recommended for older individuals because the immune system weakens with age.

8. Can my infant be vaccinated for influenza?  If not, how do I protect them from the flu?

Infants under the age of 6 months cannot receive the flu vaccine.  The best way to protect babies from influenza is to vaccinate other household members and close contacts.  Keeping babies away from large crowds and public places also helps protect them from influenza exposure.

9. How effective is the influenza vaccine?

The efficacy of the flu vaccine varies year by year depending on how well researchers match the vaccine to the specific influenza viruses spreading in the community.  Efficacy of the influenza vaccine also varies based on the age and health of the individual being vaccinated.  Overall, the influenza vaccine reduces the risk of influenza by about 60 percent among the overall population.

10. How long does it take the influenza vaccine to be effective?  How long does immunity last?

It takes about two weeks for the flu shot to become fully effective.  Protection from the influenza vaccine lasts about one year.

What other questions are your patients asking about the 2014-2015 influenza vaccine?


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