Flu vaccines stocked, researchers keep eye on new strain - WKRN News 2

Flu vaccines stocked, researchers keep eye on new strain

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -

Even though it's only the middle of August, the flu vaccine is already being offered in Middle Tennessee.  

Thanks to a plentiful supply, the flu vaccine is hitting shelves earlier than usual all around the country.

This year, researchers are keeping a particular eye on a new strain of the flu virus that is popping up among children in the Mid-West.

The CVS Minute Clinic in Green Hills is fully prepared for what the fall season brings.

Shawna Marion, a nurse practitioner, prepares the newest weapon in the fight against the flu, the intra dermal flu shot.

The needle on the intra dermal version is about 90% smaller than its traditional counterpart.

Marion said anyone from 18 to 65 years of age can opt for the shorter needle.

"It's got such a tiny needle it's difficult to feel when it goes in," explained Dr. William Schaffner, Chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Dr. Schaffner told Nashville's News 2 he hopes this less painful version of the flu shot will encourage more people to get the vaccine.

"If you get your vaccination now, you're good to go throughout the entire winter, so it's not too early," he added.

This year's flu vaccine prevents against three specific strains of the virus, two are different from last year.

But Dr. Schaffner and researchers around the country are paying extra close attention to a new form of the virus, which is being found among kids in the Mid-West.

"There's a new influenza virus," said Dr. Schaffner, "We call it H3N2 variant that's going around. So far, it's not being transferred person to person, just from pigs to the kids and we hope it stops there."

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the H3N2 virus has been linked to county fairs in Hawaii, Ohio and mostly in Indiana.

So far in 2012, a total of 154 cases have been documented, with 120 of them in Indiana and 31 in Ohio.

"People are already making vaccines against that, just in case," explained Dr. Schaffner, "But if it occurs, the drugs we have, the anti flu drugs work against that strain, and that's fortunate."

Dr. Schaffner also said parents who are bringing their child nine years old or younger to get their first flu shot, need get them two doses for the vaccine to be effective.

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