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What kinds of flu shots are there?

Flu shots protect against three or four strains of flu virus. Trivalent flu vaccines protect against two influenza A strains, H1N1 and H3N2, and one influenza B strain. Quadrivalent flu vaccines — offered for the first time in the 2013-2014 flu season — protect against the same strains as the trivalent vaccine, as well as an extra influenza B virus.

In addition to the standard dose flu vaccine given with a needle, flu shots are available in several different forms, including an egg-free version for people ages 18 to 49, a high-dose version for those ages 65 and older, a small-needle version for people ages 18 to 64, and a nasal spray, which is approved for healthy people ages 2 to 49.

There is also a needle-free flu shot, delivered by a so-called jet injector, which uses a high-pressure stream of fluid to inject the vaccine, theCDC says. It is approved for adults ages 18 to 64.

Flu vaccines for the 2015 to 2016 season

During the 2015 to 2016 flu season, it’s projected that 171 to 179 million doses of flu vaccine will be available. Flu shots are available now across the country.
This season, all of the nasal spray vaccines and the small needle (intradermal) vaccines will be quardivalent, while the high dose vaccines and the jet injector vaccines will be trivalent. The traditional flu shot, called an intramuscular vaccine, will be available in both trivalent and quadrivalent forms.

Last year, health officials said that the nasal spray is the preferred vaccine for children ages 2 to 8, because this vaccine was thought to work particularly well in this age group. However, this year, health officials did not make the same recommendation, because additional studies did not confirm that the nasal vaccine is better for this age group. So for the 2015 to 2016 flu season, both the nasal spray and flu shot are recommended equally for children ages 2 to 8.

When should you get a flu shot?

Exactly when flu season starts and ends is unpredictable, so health officials recommend that people get their flu shot in early fall, preferably before October, the CDC says. Flu activity typically peaks in January or February.

“We’d like to get as many people protected against influenza before influenza becomes active in communities across the country,” Schaffner said.

Most flu vaccine is given before Thanksgiving, Schaffner said, but people can still get their shot throughout the winter months. Each season’s flu shot expires in June of that year, but Schaffner said that he would consider it “too late” to get a flu vaccine after March, unless a person is traveling to the Southern Hemisphere (where their flu season will be starting).

After vaccination, it takes a person about two weeks to build up immunity against the flu.


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