Two Kinds of Flu Vaccines Available This Year

Writer
School of Nursing

Influenza affects 95 million Americans each year, resulting in 30 million doctors’ visits and 200,000 hospitalizations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If you haven’t already gotten your flu shot by now, you should hurry and become compliant with the University’s flu vaccine policy — or face having to wear the mask of shame as you work with patients.

What you probably did not know about the flu vaccines this year is that two different ones have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and World Health Organization (WHO).

In prior years, epidemiologists have anticipated the three most likely strains of flu viruses that can impact populations and passed on that information to vaccine manufacturers. However, this year, the FDA and the WHO recommend guarding against four strains, in the form of a “quadrivalent vaccine” that protects against two Type A and two Type B viruses.

This year’s trivalent vaccine offers protection against the Type A California H1N1-like virus, the Type A Victoria H3N2-like virus and the Type B Massachusetts 2/2012 virus. The quadrivalent vaccine guards against those three, plus the Type B Brisbane 60/2008-like virus, according to the FDA.

At UCSF, the vaccines being administered will only be the trivalent kind, given the higher cost of the quadrivalent vaccine, according to UCSF Occupational Health.

Either vaccine will meet the University’s requirement for vaccination, but if you are working in other clinical sites, you may want to be aware of the availability of the different varieties of flu vaccines that you could be administering to patients.

Another thing you might notice this year is the availability of several new flu vaccine options, including a micro-needle vaccine for people over age 65 and an egg-free version for people with allergies.

The egg-free vaccine, Flublok, was approved in January by the FDA, for use by adults under the age of 50 who are allergic to egg albumen. It does not use an inactive version of the flu virus in its ingredients, nor is it chicken egg-based.

From 1976 to 2007, the number of flu-associated deaths in the United States in any one flu season fluctuated to as high as 49,000 in 2003-04. For more information about UCSF’s flu vaccination program, go to the Occupational Health website.