SPECIAL REPORT: Flu Shot? Ask 4 It - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

SPECIAL REPORT: Flu Shot? Ask 4 It

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The sneezing, coughing and blowing your nose until it hurts; and ladies, are you finding a mountain of tissues in your purse?

It seems like clockwork, every year the holiday season finds a cozy spot next to another season: cold and flu season.

As the flu season begins, and starts to get worse, people start debating flu shots. Patients are finding they have two questions to answer this year: do I get a flu shot, and which one?

There are two options when it comes to flu shots this year. The first option is the trivalent flu shot, also referred to as the 3-strain. The trivalent is meant to protect patients from three strains of the flu virus. The second option is the quadrivalent flu shot, otherwise known as the 4-strain. The quadrivalent is aimed at protecting patients from four strains of the flu virus: two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses.

So, why the talk about the 4-strain this year? Pharmacists say each year, the Centers for Disease Control along with other health experts try to foresee which strains of the virus will be most potent. In other words, they predict which strain(s) will be the most common among people.

Heidi Wolfe is the Covenant Medical Center Pharmacist in Waterloo. Wolfe says health experts don't always predict the right strains that will be most common, and try to have a better aim, and idea, each year. She says that's why the 4-strain was developed; it's an effort to provide patients with a broader protection when it comes to the flu.

Wolfe says the 4-strain is the option she would choose. Covenant Medical Center primarily offers solely the 4-strain, with the exception of a high-dose 3-strain vaccine only for patients 65 and older.

However, not all pharmacies are alike. For example, at Scott Pharmacy in Fayette, an independent pharmacy chain in eastern Iowa, just the 3-strain is available. Pharmacist David Scott says supply played a factor this year, and it took some time for the 4-strain to be widely available.

"Of all the doses being produced this year, only half will be quadrivalent, and the other half will be the traditional trivalent. So it's really important that when you can get a flu shot, you do get a flu shot."

That's a mentality Elissa Wenthe shares. Wenthe and her whole family came to Scott Pharmacy for their flu shots this year. She says she along with her husband and three kids get flu shots every year, and have yet to get sick.

"I don't like getting the flu! Not that it prevents you from getting it, but it does diminish the chance with the big flu coming out. And with this little guy he's only a month old, so we want to really keep the sickness down as much as we can at our house," Wenthe said.

Wenthe didn't search for a 4-strain vaccine this year; she says she believes the 3-strain will work to keep her and her family healthy.

David Scott tends to agree; as the theory behind the 4-strain is broader protection, but is still not a 100 percent guarantee that a patient will not get the flu.

Pharmacists say a takeaway this year is their advice to simply get the flu shot. While the 4-strain aims to protect against a fourth strain, the 3-strain will still offer protection; which health experts say is better than no protection at all.

One way to look at it -- better to be safe, than sick.

Meanwhile, there are several factors that might lead to complications for patients wanting to get a flu shot, including current medical conditions and allergies. Also, for patients debating a flu shot, the Centers for Disease Control offers information regarding risks for vaccination and general information about the vaccine.

To find additional facts and explanations from the Centers for Disease Control, click here.


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