New, Stronger Flu Vaccine Available In Short Supply - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

New, Stronger Flu Vaccine Available In Short Supply

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by Adam Ghassemi

NASHVILLE, Tenn. It's an annual ritual. You either get sick or get a shot to hopefully stop it.

Doctors say anyone six-months and older should get a flu vaccine. But this year, quadrivalent vaccines, or ones that fight four strains of influenza, may become a hot item.

"Influenza vaccine is a good vaccine, but not a perfect vaccine. By broadening the coverage, adding this protection against the fourth strain that makes it a better vaccine," said Dr. William Schaffner with Vanderbilt University Medical Center's Division of Infectious Diseases.

Schaffner says while only some four-strain vaccines will be available this season they will soon become the standard.

"The injectable vaccine manufacturers are all working hard to increase the amount of this quadrivalent vaccine that's available. There will be more next year and by three years it'll be all quadrivalent," he said.

The flu puts 200,000 Americans in the hospital every year and kills 36,000. That means a bad case could put someone in the ICU within 48 hours.

Schaffner says all nasal vaccines available this season protect against four strains, but if you're getting a shot you have to ask. He says if you can't find a four strain shot, it's better to get the traditional three-strain vaccine versus going without.

The Metro Public Health Department is still waiting on its order to arrive, but they'll receive the traditional three-strain version.

A new study released last week shows a high-dosage variant given to the elderly over the last two years provides them 25% more protection against getting the flu.

One problem doctors face is influenza is always changing.

Like the Bird Flu crisis from a few years ago, Vanderbilt researches, like Dr. Kathryn Edwards, are now tracking a new strain called H7N9, which first showed up in China in March. So far it's killed 40 people, but hasn't shown up in the United States.

"Studies are underway to test this vaccine in people, this H7N9 vaccine so we'll have it ready just in case we need it," Schaffner said.

Schaffner says not getting the vaccine to stay well isn't a good idea either. He says getting the flu from a flu vaccine is a myth debunked by many scientific studies.

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