2014 Flu Facts

For the 2013-2014 flu season, several new vaccines will be offered for the first time, although their availability may be limited. Previously, when picking a vaccine, you could choose between a shot containing three dead virus strains and a nasal spray containing live, weakened virus strains. In addition to those options, this year’s offerings include a new four-strain vaccine; a high-dose flu shot; two egg-free versions; and a shot that does not go beneath the skin.

All vaccines will protect against both Type A strains of influenza (H1N1 and H3N2), as well as a Type B strain. The four-strain, or quadrivalent, vaccine protects against a second strain of Type B influenza in addition to the first one and the Type A strains. In the past it has been difficult to predict which B strain would become dominant in any given season, so the quadrivalent vaccine protects against two strains instead of one.

Also being offered this year are two egg-free shots for people who are allergic to eggs. Until now, all vaccines were developed from chicken eggs and could not be given to people with egg allergies.

Additionally, a high-dose flu shot containing four times as the usual dose will be offered to older adults and other people with weakened immune systems as a way to boost their body’s response to the virus.

Finally, people with an aversion to needles can choose to receive a “micro-needle” version of the vaccine delivered into the skin instead of the arm muscle.

For many vaccine recipients, more than one type or brand of vaccine may be appropriate. Where more than one type of vaccine is appropriate and available, no preferential recommendation is made by the CDC for use of any influenza vaccine product over another.

Contrary to popular belief, you cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine—but sometimes side effects mimic those of the flu, such as a headache, low fever and/or runny nose. These will only persist for a day or less, however.

Certain people should NOT get a flu vaccine without first consulting their physician, including:

  • Those who have had a severe reaction or have developed Guillain-Barre syndrome within six weeks of getting an influenza vaccination
  • Children under six months of age