Public Radio for Alaska's Bristol Bay
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Flu Season Approaches, State Recommends Vaccines

Department of Health and Social Services

As school is starting up the importance of getting flu vaccines is greater.  The state of Alaska has flu vaccines available now and recommends getting it earlier rather than later.  

August is National Immunization Awareness Month which mean state public health centers will waive all immunization administration fees for state-provided vaccines during for the whole month. 

There are 13 vaccine products available from seven manufacturers this fall.  However there are two that are more popular than the rest.  Staff physician at the section of epidemiology at the Department of Health and Social Services Rosalyn Singleton says the normal flu shot and the nasal spray are the most common for people with no allergies.

“There is the injectable flu vaccine, the flu shot and that’s a kill vaccine, so it’s dead, there’s no way you can get the flu from the flu vaccine. And then there is a nasal vaccine called Flu Mist and that’s a flu vaccine that’s not injectable it can be given through the nose, it is a live vaccine. As a live vaccine it better mimics the influenza and actually for some populations can give better protection.”

Singleton says the nasal flu vaccine prevents flu better in children.  However, there are other vaccines for special circumstances.

“There’s a vaccine called Flu Block and that vaccine is made entirely egg free. Most flu vaccines are grown to some extent on egg and for the vast majority of people there’s no problem getting that vaccine. But for people who have a severe egg allergy, like anaphylaxis, there’s a new flu vaccine product called Flu Block that can be used on individuals who in the past wouldn’t have been recommended to get the flu vaccine.”

There isn’t a huge difference in all 13 of the offered vaccines.  Singleton says the main reason there are so many is because there are different manufacturers making the same product.  She says that’s important because it decreases the risk of running out of the vaccine. 

Singleton says there are some people that are eligible for vaccines paid for by the state.

“Now the people who are eligible provided by the state include children who are eligible for federally supplied vaccines through what’s called the Vaccine for Children Program. It’s an entitlement program for children who are Medicaid eligible, who are uninsured, who are Alaska Native and American Indian, and to some under insured children who are getting care at federally qualified health care centers. The state provided vaccine is available through some state funds for uninsured and underinsured adults. They have to go somewhere where their provider has gotten that vaccine.”

Although flu season didn’t start in 2013 until November, and it didn’t hit its peak until December, it’s recommended to get the vaccine sooner rather than later.  Singleton says it’s important to get the vaccine as soon as it’s available because there can be a spike in flu at any time-- like this year, when there was an increase in May and June.