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Your Health: Officials stress importance of getting flu vaccine
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Your Health: Officials stress importance of getting flu vaccine

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I got a flu shot already, and now I see there is a new flu vaccine that protects against four viruses instead of the usual three. Is one vaccine better than the other?

Seasonal flu vaccine typically offers protection against three flu viruses — two A viruses and one B virus. The three-component vaccine is referred to as trivalent vaccine.

This year, a new quadrivalent flu vaccine is available that protects against four flu viruses — the same three in the trivalent vaccine plus an additional B flu virus.

Experts decide seasonal flu vaccine formulation based on research months before the actual flu season. Sometimes the vaccine is a good match for the viruses that circulate during flu season, but other times it’s less effective. Adding additional protection to the vaccine is thought to broaden the protection.

The three-component and four-component flu vaccines are available, but the traditional trivalent version is expected to be more plentiful.

Officials at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state public health experts are not recommending which one to get — they just want folks to get a flu shot.

“We don’t prefer or recommend one or the other,” said Dr. Laurie Forlano, deputy state epidemiologist at the Virginia Department of Health.

“I think as more data comes in over time, over a few (flu) seasons, the CDC will be able to make other decisions or other recommendations, but right now the most important thing is to get any flu shot,” Forlano said.

There are many flu vaccine products available, she said.

“There’s an egg-free vaccine. There’s a high-dose vaccine for older adults. My best advice to everyone out there is to get a flu vaccine. If you have questions about what one might be most appropriate based on age or your medical condition or availability, just talk to your doctor,” Forlano said.

According to the CDC, of the estimated 139 million doses of influenza vaccine projected to be available this flu season, vaccine manufacturers estimate about 32 million doses of that to be quadrivalent flu vaccine.

To find places with flu vaccine, go to http://vaccine.healthmap.org. Searching that website locally, Martin’s, Target and Walgreen’s stores were among those indicating they had trivalent and quadrivalent shots.

• At Martin’s, the trivalent flu shot was $30; the quadrivalent flu shot, $35; flu nasal spray, $40; and the high-dose flu shot for older people, $65.

• At the Target store at 7235 Bell Creek Road in Mechanicsville, the trivalent flu shot was $28; the quadrivalent flu shot, $35; the intradermal flu shot, $28; flu nasal spray, $35; and the high-dose flu shot, $50.

• Walgreen’s did not list prices on the website.

Many insurance plans cover flu vaccine with no co-pay or deductible as preventive health care.

TLsmith@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6572

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Read all the Your Health Columns by Richmond Times-Dispatch staff writer Tammie Smith

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