New flu shot option: less needle, more money

New flu shot option: less needle, more money

CHAMPAIGN — When you get your flu shot this fall, you may be asked if you'd like the long needle or the short needle.

And before you say — SHORT NEEDLE, YOU BET! — here are a few things to know about the new Fluzone Intradermal flu shot being offered as an option at some local flu shot clinics this year.

First of all, most of the difference is in the delivery and how you'll feel afterward, says Brandon Meline, director of maternal and child health at the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.

The needle is 90 percent shorter than the regular Fluzone flu shot, he says.

So if you don't like needles, this flu shot may be for you, but only if you fit the age criteria.

The intradermal shot is only approved for those ages 18 to 64.

This shot is administered straight into the arm, but instead of being injected into the muscle, it's injected into the skin. In fact, it barely breaks the layer of the skin, Meline said.

Other things to know:

The intradermal flu shot comes in a single dose, free of the mercury-based preservative thimerosal. It requires 40 percent less antigen (the part of the vaccine that helps the body build up protection from flu viruses) than the regular shot, but provides the same protection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So what's the catch?

It costs a bit more.

Meline said the intradermal shot was introduced last year and wasn't widely taken up by providers.

While consumers are seeing it around the area more this year, he said, it's about twice the cost of the regular flu shot.

The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District ordered 10 doses, and administered the first few of them to some employees this week, Meline said.

"They said it was virtually pain-free," he said.

The public health district's cost for the intradermal shot is about $16 per dose, and the health district can provide regular flu shots for as little as $6 or $7 from multi-dose vials, Meline said.

The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District has the remaining intradermal doses available for the public, and if people start asking for it, is prepared to order more, he said.

"There's plenty of vaccine around this year, so we can order and ship it in a couple of days," he added.

Christie Clinic is offering intradermal shots as a new option at its community flu shot clinics this year at all locations as long as supplies last, clinic officials said.

The cost of the intradermal shot at the Christie Clinic's flu clinics, for those paying out of pocket, is $35, compared to $30 for a regular flu shot. But the intradermal shot is covered by most insurers, so most insured patients choosing this option shouldn't notice a difference, according to Christie Clinic spokeswoman Michelle Benson.

Carle isn't offering intradermal shots as an option this season largely due to the cost and large number of flu shots Care provides, but will see if patients express an interest in it, Carle spokeswoman Kelly Anderson said.

Jenny Trimmell, director of community health services for the Vermilion County Health Department, said the intradermal option isn't available through that department, either. But some pharmacies may be offering intradermal flu shots in the area, Trimmell said.