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New four-strain flu vaccine available

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MERRIAM, Kan.-- You can already get a flu shot or nasal vaccine at many doctors' office and retail clinics.  This year, for the first time, some flu vaccines protect against four strains of the virus.  Another B strain has been added.

"And that flu B strain has been shown to be even more serious in children, so that's why it was added this year," said Dr. Julie Brown of Shawnee Mission Pediatrics at Shawnee Mission Medical Center.

Dr. Brown says the four-strain vaccine will be a little costlier, but insurance should cover it.

It won't be as widely available as the three-strain with an estimated 25 million doses being four-strain out of the 135 million doses overall.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says kids should get vaccinated as soon as possible with either.

"Just as long as you get vaccinated, that's better than nothing at all.  The vaccine is the number one best prevention for influenza," said Dr. Brown.

Four-year-old Capri Olsen got the new four-strain nasal spray.  Her dad says the entire family will get vaccinated.

"With Capri in pre-school and, obviously, Heidi almost two and then another on the way, me owning my own business, it just makes sense.  We can't afford to be sick," said Chris Olsen.

Doctors emphasize that it's not too early to be vaccinated.  Immunity you build up now will last through flu season.

Also new this year are two flu vaccines that are not grown in chicken eggs.  They are an option for people who are allergic to eggs.

In addition, doctors say recent research has shown that most people who have an egg allergy can safely get a regular flu shot although not the nasal vaccine.

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