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As Flu Season Approaches, Little Needle May be a Big Help to Some

Posted Nov 19 2012 9:10pm
Smaller Needle


Are you terrified of needles? Do you dread the prospect of your yearly flu shot? Well, no, there isn’t an app for that – yet. But there is the intradermal influenza vaccine, which uses a needle that’s 90% smaller than those used for regular flu shots.

Ordinarily, vaccines are injected into the muscle, requiring the use of a longer needle. The recent introduction of intradermal vaccines, which are injected into the skin, means a significantly smaller needle is needed. In addition, the new vaccine uses less than half the amount of antigen required for a regular flu shot, meaning more doses of vaccine can be manufactured from the same amount of antigen, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Antigens spur the immune system to develop resistance to a virus.

Annually, thousands of deaths nationwide are associated with influenza. During National Influenza Vaccination Week, which will run from December 2 to 8, 2012, health officials will seek to highlight the importance of flu vaccinations. More than 40% of Americans, or almost 130 million people, received a flu vaccine during the 2011-12 season, CDC statistics show.

The intradermal influenza vaccine, which was introduced during the 2011-12 flu season, has been approved in the United States for use in adults ages 18 to 64. The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) lists the vaccine as one of the vaccination options available for the upcoming flu season, along with the traditional flu shot and the nasal spray version.

The NFID reports that about 135 million doses of flu vaccine will be available this flu season.

A year after its introduction, the micro-needle vaccine should be more readily available this winter. CVS pharmacies are among the healthcare providers offering the shots.


Check with Your Physician and Insurer

As with the traditional flu shot, there are risks and side effects associated with the micro-needle.

The CDC notes that the intradermal shot also uses an inactive virus, meaning individuals can’t catch the flu from the vaccine. Cases in which the vaccine leads to serious problems or death are extremely rare.

Side effects of flu shots can include pain, swelling, itching and redness. Those reactions, with the exception of pain, are more common with the intradermal vaccine. However, such symptoms typically disappear within a week.

As with any vaccine, check with your physician first on whether the intradermal shot is suitable for you. Check also with your health insurance carrier as the micro-needle vaccine may come with a larger price tag than a regular flu shot.

Still, if you’re one of those people whose legs turn to rubber at the sight of a needle, paying a little more for a lot less needle could be just what the doctor ordered when flu season rolls around.


Elise Redmann is currently a junior at the University of South Florida where she is earning her Bachelor’s degree in business advertising and international business. She works as a writer with the  Jacksonville University School of Nursing Online  RN to BSN programs where she covers topics on healthy living. You can follow her  @EliseRedmann712  on Twitter.

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