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The 4-1-1 on Flu Shots

 by Ruth Schneider   Posted on November 4 2013

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There are 13 different CDC-approved flu shots available this year. Do you know which one is right for you?

To be fair, one is actually an inhaled spray, not a shot, but it is one of the choices. It's restricted to people between the ages of 2 and 49. The other 12 all come in shot form, and this year there are some new choices.

"This is the first time that people have had to worry about which one to choose," John Treanor, a flu vaccine expert at the University of Rochester Medical Center, told AARP. "In the past we just said, 'OK, you should get a flu vaccine.' That's simple. Now you have all these different options without evidence that would really favor one over the other."

The CDC, in fact, does not recommend one shot over another, either. The CDC's bottom line is "to get a flu vaccine every year."

The 12 different shots do have some overlap -- for example there are seven FDA-approved trivalent brands , which protects against three different flu bugs.

Here's what you need to know about this year's flu shots:

  • This year there is a vaccine approved for children as young as 6 months. The vaccine is a standard dose trivalent vaccine.
  • The vaccine used on children age 17 and younger is made using a virus grown in eggs. There is a flu shot for people with egg allergies, but it is only for adults age 18-49.
  • For the first time, a quadrivalent vaccine is available, which means it vaccinates against four strains of the flu virus.
  • There's also the spray available for healthy folks age 2-49. The spray is a quadrivalent.
  • For people with needle fears who are not eligible for the spray form, there is an intradermal shot that uses a smaller, shallower needle. It's approved for people age 18-64.
  • Most insurance wellness plans cover an annual flu shot -- but the provider might not always offer options. If you prefer one shot over another, let the provider know.
  • The out-of-pocket cost is about $5-$30, if you are not covered by insurance.
  • Medicare completely covers the cost of any vaccine appropriate for someone age 65 and older. There is no co-pay.

The Healthmap Vaccine Finder is a good resource for finding a flu shot near you.

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