A new kind of flu shot
A new needle is taking some of the pain out of the flu shot.
The Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Health Unit is one of two agencies offering a new flu vaccine intended to be less painful and easier to use.
The vaccine is approved but not widely used. It’s an intradermal injection, meaning it’s injected into a person’s skin instead of muscle.
Clinical service manager Bill Sherlock said the health unit has 500 single-dose syringes to be used at its Oct. 19 clinic in Belleville. Only people age 60 or older are eligible.
“It’s a very fine needle,” said clinical service manager Bill Sherlock. “It’s less invasive so it’s not as painful.”
He said it’s also easier and faster for staff to use.
The Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington Health Unit is conducting its own pilot program.
Sherlock said the intradermal system is among the options for people who want the flu vaccine. Another option is a nasal spray. Some pharmacies may stock such options, but at a cost.
The regular flu shot is free to those living, working and attending school in Ontario.
It’s expected all 500 doses will be given at the Oct. 19 clinic. Typically about 1,000 injections are given at clinics early in flu season.
Whether the product reaches a wider market depends on provincial funding for next year’s round of flu shots.
In the meantime, unit staff are recommending all residents get the flu shot.
Sherlock quoted a provincial finding that the flu affects about 25,000 Ontarians each year. About 1,000 people are hospitalized and 500 to 1,000 people die as a result of the virus, he said.
There has already been one confirmed case of flu in the area, he said.
For those who don’t mind the regular, larger needle, the health unit is now distributing 25,000 doses of this year’s vaccine to family doctors and will offer its annual flu clinics across the two counties between Oct. 15 and Dec. 3. A further 3,000 doses have been ordered.
“It takes generally two weeks for the vaccine to take effect in your body, so get it early — the earlier the better,” Sherlock said.
“It’s impossible to get the flu from the flu shot,” he said, addressing a popular belief among the public.
“It’s a dead virus and so it cannot possibly give you influenza,” said medical officer of health Dr. Richard Schabas.
Other vaccines, such as the one for measles, mumps and rubella, are made with live viruses. A modified virus is injected into the body, allowing a person’s immune system to develop resistance to it.
“Those are the most effective vaccines,” Schabas said.
But it’s also one reason why people should get a flu shot every year, he said. Not only does the dead-virus factor make the vaccine less effective, but each year’s vaccine is made to protect against different flu strains.
The Oct. 19 clinic offering the intradermal shot will be at Holy Rosary Parish, 169 North Park St. (one door south of the health unit, just south of Bell Boulevard) from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Call the health unit at 613-966-5513 ext. 313 (toll-free: 1-800-267-2803) for details of other flu clinics in your area.