Attention needle-phobes: New way to get a flu shot

A new kind of "ouchless" flu shot features a tiny needle less than a tenth of an inch in length and the width of a human hair.

Paula Wolfson,

WASHINGTON – Kids aren’t the only needle-phobes. A lot of adults don’t get the shots they need, including the flu vaccine, because they fear the pain.

But now there is a new kind of “ouchless” flu shot that features a tiny needle less than a tenth of an inch in length and the width of a human hair.

It’s called an intradermal shot because it delivers the flu vaccine just under the skin, unlike traditional shots that go into the muscle.

“You can almost not even see the needle,” says Pamela Prindle, director of Foxhall Internists Immunization Clinic.

“It’s a very, very small needle.”

Prindle, a registered nurse, says it provides just as much protection as the traditional shot by delivering the vaccine to cells directly beneath the surface of the skin that deal with the immune system. A big plus is there are fewer side effects.

“There is less deep muscle pain. It causes a little rash and that is usually about it.”

The microneedle made its first appearance last flu season in limited release. This year it is widely available at both doctors’ offices and pharmacies, including many CVS, Walgreen, Rite Aid and Target stores.

It’s one of several options for patients. The traditional flu shot remains available to everyone over six months of age. A nasal spray vaccine is cleared for ages 2 to 49, but is most effective in children and is not for anyone with health issues, such as asthma.

For now, the intradermal flu shot is only available to those who are 18 to 64. While the tiny needle is only being used now to inoculate people against the flu, Prindle says it is only a matter of time before the technology is applied to other vaccines as well.

She predicts in less than five years, the traditional needle will become a thing of the past.

She says more oral vaccines and skin patches are on the horizon.

“They are really trying to get away from big needle injections,” she says.

Find a location where the intradermal flu vaccine is given.

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