DALLAS — Why is Emma Thompson getting a flu shot? Because she has a new grandson.
"I don't want him to get sick," she said.
This year, Thompson is getting the most protection possible with a new vaccine that guards against four strains of influenza instead of just three.
"Some years there's a significant number of cases that are not the same strains that are in the vaccine, so people get the vaccine, they think they're protected... but they catch influenza anyway," explained Dr. Paul Sanders. "This is just an attempt to get more people covered by covering four strains instead of three."
The new vaccine contains two strains of influenza Type A and two strains of Type B. Before now, influenza vaccine contained two Type A strains and only one Type B strain.
All of the FluMist nasal spray this year — including children's doses — offers four-fold protection. But only some of the injectible guard against all four types.; patients will have to ask for the four-strain variety.
Patients may also be asked to pay extra for the new vaccine, up to $10 or more per dose.
FluMist contains live virus. The nasal spray is approved for people two to 49 years old, except pregnant women and people who should not be exposed to live viruses.
Also new this year is a flu vaccine made without eggs. Many people before now could not tolerate influenza immunizations due to egg allergies.
And while many people are reluctant to try something new because they're afraid of the unknown, the risks are about the same as with the traditional vaccine.
Chas Fitzgerald said he wasn't going to risk his doctor running out. "The way I look at it, it's a broader base of protection, so it seems like a good idea to me," he said.
Because so little of the four-strain vaccine was manufactured, the limited supplies are expected to quickly be depleted. The Travel Doctor in Dallas is among the North Texas clinics that ordered a small supply of the new quadravalent vaccine.
Many experts — including the American Academy of Pediatrics — are urging people not wait too long for the new flu vaccine.
"You want to make sure you get your protection by the end of October at the latest, because when the cold weather starts, that's when people start to have trouble," Dr. Sanders said. "It's nice to have your antibodies up before the end of October."