The 2013 flu season will see new, more specialized flu vaccines offered to the public for the first time.
While the standard three-strain vaccine will be the most commonly available option via injection, a new four-strain version has recently been introduced on the market.
This additional strain has been added due to its frequent occurrence in children.
The four-strain variant will be most readily available in nasal spray form, called FluMist Quadrivalent, which has replaced the previous three-strain version in the marketplace.
The injectable version of the four-strain vaccine will be far more difficult to track down, said Melany Webster, a registered nurse and the immunization coordinator for the McPherson County Health Department.
"It only became available for order in January," Webster said, "and not enough has been produced for widespread sales."
The nasal spray variant is recommended only to people ranging in age from 2 to 49 who aren't pregnant. Seniors, however, have had the option of receiving Fluzone High-Dose.
Approved by the Food and Drug administration in 2009, Fluzone High-Dose is designed to more effectively stimulate the typically weaker immune systems of senior citizens through supplying a quadruple dose of the strains.
Clinical trials have shown a higher immune system response in seniors who've used Fluzone High-Dose, though its effectiveness in deterring the disease is not yet known. A study into its effectiveness is expected to be released in 2014 or 2015.
Even more options are coming out in the marketplace, including intradermal skin deep shots and variations produced specifically for those who suffer allergies to eggs.
With all these options, potential for consumer confusion about which product will best serve them is a possibility.
Reading about all the different variations makes the process seem confusing, said Dawn Eagle, a mother of four and owner of Precious Angels Daycare in McPherson.
"It's OK if kids end up getting the same protection," Eagle said, "and it sounds like a good, easier idea, but I won't use the four-strain myself until it's had a year to prove itself in the market."
In response, Webster said the process of making the flu vaccine doesn't change, except for the fact new virus strains are added on an annual basis.
"The process for making the vaccine has been the same for many, many years," Webster said. "They change out the viruses every year to keep the vaccine as current as it can be. The fact that it's tested effective regularly despite this constant change supports the validity of these new flu vaccines."
While the constant need to switch the flu strains in the vaccines can lead to fluctuations in vaccine effectiveness, recent studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have shown the vaccine reducing the risk of flu illness by about 60 percent among the overall population during the flu's most active seasons.
Page 2 of 2 - Webster said the injectable four-strain flu vaccine won't be available via the McPherson County Health Department this year. The new form will be available in the nasal spray.
"We will begin offering flu vaccines in the clinic on Oct. 1," Webster said, "and we will be doing outreach in places such as the county senior citizens' centers and senior housing, but anyone can come to any of these outreach events and get their flu shot."
The Health Department's pricing on flu immunizations has not been finalized yet. In 2012, the price was $25 per shot or inoculation.