A  four-in-one flu vaccine will be offered this year, providing more protection for adults, children and seniors. The new “Quadrivalent Vaccines,” guard against four strains of the flu, rather than the usual three. Consumers also have new options for how they receive their annual protection.

flu shot calendar

Early fall is a good time to think about digging out those abandoned jackets, decorate with pumpkins and buy a new sturdy rake to tame the ever-growing leaf pile, but according to the Center for Disease Control, it’s also the optimum time to receive a flu vaccination. Everyone over the age of six months is encouraged to get one. When you consider that on average, 24,000 Americans die every year from the flu, it’s a strong suggestion.

The common flu vaccine is made up of two Type A strains called H1N1 and H3N2, and one strain of Type B. Type A is the leading cause of serious illness and death. There are two strains of Type B that circle the globe but until this year, only one was included. The quadrivalent vaccines will now include the addition of that second Type B strain. Flu strains continually change and evolve, so each year the recipe is different.

Of note, not all injectable vaccines will carry the second Type B dose. Sold under the brand names, Fluzone Quadrivalent, Fluarix Quadrivalent and FluLaval Quadrivalent, the new vaccines will only be available in small quantities so if you’re interested, ask your doctor or pharmacist about it soon. All nasal spray vaccines will cover all four bases but, FluMist Quadrivalent is only recommended for healthy people ages 2 to 49 who aren’t pregnant.

Are you allergic to eggs, we mean REALLY allergic to eggs? Get in line and roll up your sleeve because now there’s an option for you too. The common vaccine has always been made from viruses grown in eggs but the chance of someone with an egg allergy becoming ill is so minute, doctors still encouraged its use. Now, for those with a serious allergy or those who were too leery to take a chance, the vaccine FluBok will be available this year. Made from cell technology, it’s recommended for people ages 18 to 49.

Afraid of needles? If you don’t qualify for the painless nasal mist, ask your doctor about Fluzone Intradermal. Instead of an intramuscular shot, the tiny needle goes just underneath the surface of the skin. However, this option only provides protection from the usual three strains.

For seniors, Fluzone High-Dose will be offered. It does not offer the second Type B strain but the dose is quadrupled in an effort to increase the efficacy on weakened immune systems.

“We’re moving away from the one-size-fits-all to choosing the best possible vaccine for an individual’s age and condition,” said Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious disease specialist at the Mayo Clinic. Again, not all vaccines will contain the second Type B protection so inquire with your doctor or pharmacist as soon as possible about the best protection for your age and current health.