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Flu Shot: Needle or Spray?

Swine Flu vaccines are available this week. Most people will have the option of being vaccinated with a shot or with a nasal spray. But how do you know which is best for you? Bill Stamps went to the city health department for answers.


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“They’ve done studies where they’ve put virus deliberately on someone’s hand and an hour later they can still find the virus, so it’s there for a long time.”

Doctor Catherine TroisiDoctor Catherine Troisi is giving a day long talk to a group of healthcare workers on a variety of subjects. But a big chunk of the talk is devoted to the flu. By now most people have probably heard of the many cases of H1N1, or swine flu, that have swept the country…and with the vaccines being delivered to clinics this week it seems there’s some confusion on what shot or shots you should get.

Troise says there’s the shot you take with the needle:

“That’s the inactivated vaccine.”

And if afraid of needles, there’s another one you can take through your nose. She calls this the live version, because to put it simply, they’re actually giving you a weakened strain of the flu to keep you from contracting it. This nasal version is actually more effective.

“Your protection, your immune response will be stronger.”

She says the nasal version has more advantages than the normal flu shot:

“One, you make a better immune response to it. Two, it’s given intra-nasally instead of with a needle and when my children were getting vaccines, they would have loved to have had that available. And three, when you’re producing vaccine, you can produce it quicker and that’s why that one was on the market quicker than the other one.”

So why don’t doctors just give everyone the nasal version instead of the old vaccine?
Troisi says not everyone can handle it. Small children, pregnant women and people with chronic conditions can’t take the nasal version. Keep in mind there’s a needle version and a nasal version for both the regular flu and the swine flu. But you only need one of each. Either way, she says health officials are staying on top of things.

“We are in much better shape than we were in the spring, we’ve had this summer to get ready; however, one of the things about influenza is its very unpredictable. So far we’ve been very lucky that we haven’t seen a lot of deaths. There are some groups, like pregnant women, that have higher rates, but still not a whole lot of deaths, but the virus can change and that’s what we’re looking out for.”

Bill Stamps. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.

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