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Sept. 26, 2013 Volume 35, No. 6

MU Health Care offers improved vaccination for flu season

New vaccine offers protection against four flu strains

In preparation for flu season, MU Health Care is offering patients an improved seasonal influenza vaccination that provides protection against four strains of the virus.

MU Health Care will be providing the quadrivalent flu vaccine to employees beginning Oct. 1. Patients should make appointments with their primary care physicians. To find a University Physician, visit

For MU Health Care employees, the vaccinations are free, said spokesperson Colin Planalp. 

Traditional trivalent flu vaccines protect against three flu strains, while the quadrivalent vaccine offers protection against four strains.

“MU Health Care believes providing this new version of the seasonal flu vaccine is the best choice for our patients,” said Stevan Whitt, chief medical officer for MU Health Care and associate professor of internal medicine. “Getting a flu vaccine each year is the most effective way to reduce your risk of catching influenza. Because this vaccine guards against four types of flu instead of the traditional vaccine’s protection against three types, it gives even greater protection.”

In the United States, flu season generally runs from late October to early May. The new quadrivalent vaccine guards against two forms of influenza A and two forms of influenza B viruses.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that, of the 139 million people receiving flu shots nationwide, only about 30 million receive quadrivalent vaccines.

“This new vaccine will give patients greater protection against influenza B, which caused so much illness last season, as well as influenza A, which typically causes more flu illness in Missouri,” said Michael Cooperstock, medical director of MU Health Care’s Infection Control Department and a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Children’s Hospital. 

Whitt and Cooperstock encourage all adults and children age 6 months or older to be vaccinated against influenza. Each year, approximately 200,000 Americans are hospitalized with the flu, and an estimated 25,000 people die from the flu. Most at risk are:

• People with respiratory illnesses, such as asthma or other lung problems, chronic diseases such as diabetes and weakened immune systems;

• Pregnant women;

• Children younger than 5 years old and adults age 65 and older.

“Vaccination also is important for people who regularly interact with people at risk for flu complications, such as parents and siblings of small children, and health care professionals,” Cooperstock said. “Protecting yourself also helps protect the people around you.”

During the last flu season, 99 percent of MU Health Care employees received flu vaccinations, compared to a national average of 75 percent, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.