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Health Team

New flu vaccine features smaller needle

Posted January 19, 2012 5:30 p.m. EST
Updated January 19, 2012 6:15 p.m. EST

— Some people like to gamble and play against the odds, even when it comes to the flu. They don't get the flu vaccine either because they don't think they'll get sick or they're afraid of the needle. However, a new vaccine option leaves them with no excuses.

A new intradermal vaccine features a smaller needle.

“It's just into the skin. It's not deep into the muscle,” said University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill epidemiologist Dr. David Weber. “What you do is you get a little more redness and maybe a little more swelling, but beyond that, you have similar side-effects to the standard influenza shot.”

The intradermal vaccine isn't for young children, although they can get the inhaled flu mist vaccine. The intradermal is for people ages 18 to 64. The standard injectable form is for everyone 6 months and older.

There is another form of flu vaccine with four times the amount of antigen, approved for people ages 65 and older.

Julie Andrade, a student at UNC-Chapel Hill, hasn't had her flu vaccine this year, even though she remembers how bad the flu is.

“Oh, it was terrible. I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn't move. I was really dehydrated. It seemed like it lasted forever,” she said.

There haven't been many flu cases in the state this year, but the peak of the season is typically middle to late February. Once someone gets the shot, or even the inhaled version, it takes one to three weeks to build up immunity.

Andrade, like many people, prefers alternatives to the longer needle vaccine, so she was willing to try the new intradermal form.

“You could hardly feel the needle going in. It was a little pressure at the beginning, but you couldn't feel the needle actually go through in your arm,” she said.

Weber says about a third of all influenza deaths each year in the U.S. are in perfectly healthy people.