The Arizona Department of Health Services marked the start of a new flu season Wednesday with shots available at the Capitol to state employees.
Beginning Oct. 1, the state starts monitoring cases for a new flu season, which ends Sept. 30, 2013.
Several East Valley pharmacies started offering flu shots near the end of August or the beginning of September. The state makes shots available to all employees who qualify for benefits.
"This year's vaccine is out in the community. It's available for people to get at this time. We're encouraging people to get vaccinated and do your part for your community and your loved ones," said the state Health Services Department's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Cara Christ.
Each year, a new batch of vaccine is created. It typically contains antigens to fight off two "influenza a" types and one "influenza b" type, she said.
"From all reports we've heard, it does look like this vaccine is on track with what we're seeing in the southern hemisphere. They always give us a preview for what we're going to see this year," she said.
But as always, "the flu is predictably unpredictable."
Such was the case in 2009 when H1N1 appeared, causing a flu epidemic worldwide. A vaccine against that version is in this year's shot, as it has been since 2010.
Besides the regular shot, there is a "micro injection" available at some doctors' offices and clinics, using a smaller needle. A nasal spray vaccine -- Flumist -- is available for people ages 2 to 49 years old. Recipients cannot be pregnant or have certain medical conditions.
Everyone is encouraged to get the vaccine, Christ said. A stronger version, known as Fluzone High Dose, is available for seniors 65 and older.
"As you get older your immune system tends to wane. It's just to give their immune system a bigger dosage of it so they get a better response," she said.
Wednesday's event to promote influenza vaccines included a "flash mob," (to the tune "Monster Mash") to remind the public that "shots aren't scary."
A new vaccine is being developed that would provide immunization against four versions of the flu, Christ said. It is approved by the FDA, she said, but not available for general use.
"We're hoping that in the next year or two the quadrivalent comes out," she said.
The flu vaccine is available for everyone six months old and older.
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