This year’s seasonal flu vaccine has arrived in doctors’ offices, and it’s recommended for pretty much everyone over the age of six months on a yearly basis. Last year’s nasty flu season arrived early in Boston and led to temporary shortages of the immunization in some locations—so you may want to get immunized sooner rather than later.
Two new websites and apps developed by a techie at Boston Children’s Hospital can help you find a clinic offering flu vaccines near you and to track the flu as it spreads through New England.
The flu tracking app relies on crowdsourcing—thousands of people who register and report how they’re feeling on a day to day basis. So far, only 1 percent of flu trackers in the Boston area report having flu-like symptoms like coughing, fever, or a runny nose.
“We look for that to get into the 3 to 5 percent range before we think something is happening,” said John Brownstein, director of Boston Children’s Hospital Informatics Program.
The flu shot finder has a list of 50 pharmacies in Boston offering the $30 to $35 vaccine, which is covered by insurance. It will also tell you which type of the vaccine is available at each clinic. There are seven different flu vaccines including nasal sprays, cell-based shots for those with egg allergies, and high-dose vaccines for seniors (who often don’t get enough protection from the standard shot).
There’s also a new shot that protects against four circulating viruses—quadrivalent—instead of the standard trivalent shot, which this year protects against two A strains and a B strain.
Not sure which vaccine to get? No worries. You can take this quiz to help whittle down the choices.
Brownstein also helped develop another new app to help patients and doctors track and report side effects from medications and vaccines. Reported information also gets downloaded into the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s database to help public health officials learn of any novel side effects from new drugs or vaccines.Deborah Kotz can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @debkotz2.