Vanderbilt doctor explains changes in this year's flu shots - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Vanderbilt doctor explains changes in this year's flu shots

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

With children back in school, it's only a matter of time before the flu starts going around again.

And while the peak of the flu season in Middle Tennessee usually hits in February, doctors are already urging anyone over 6-months-old to get a flu vaccine.

Researchers have even improved the vaccine this year to offer more protection.

"In the past, the flu shot has protected against three different kinds of viruses. This year, some of the manufacturers have broadened that coverage and will now provide protection against four different strains. So that gives us more protection. It's a better vaccine," said Dr. William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University.

You may be wondering why don't all of this year's shots cover all four strains, but Schaffner says unfortunately, it's not that simple. Manufacturers have to change their entire manufacturing process and the way those shots are approved by the FDA.

"So, they're gearing up. That's as much as they could make this year. Next year, they'll make more, and in three years, they will all be four-strain. It just takes time for us to get there," Schaffner said.

He added that senior citizens should actually ask for the "high dose" version of the shot, which can be up to 25 percent more effective at preventing the illness.

The nasal spray is also a popular option for patients between 2 and 50 years old.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also lists other tips on how to stay healthy this flu season:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Likewise, stay home from school or work if you don't feel well.
  • Be sure to follow other good habits, such as getting regular exercise, eating healthy foods and getting plenty of sleep.
  • And wash your hands. It's the easiest way to keep germs from spreading.

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