I don’t like shots.

I also don’t like getting the flu.

Fortunately, these days we have options other than the traditional flu shot. For example—the nasal spray flu vaccine. This wonderful delivery method gets you the vaccine without puncturing your skin. It works for healthy, non-pregnant persons between ages 2 and 49.

Unfortunately for me, I’m no longer in that age group. I was able to lie about my age for a couple years (as a pharmacist, I do not endorse such behavior), but this year I decided I couldn’t keep getting the nasal vaccine. So for the first time I tried an intradermal flu vaccine.

Most shots go through your skin, then a layer of fat, and then into your muscle. That’s why they hurt. Intradermal vaccines, however, are injected directly into the skin with a needle that’s 90% smaller than a traditional one. When I got the intradermal vaccine, I could still feel the needle but it didn’t hurt much.

I plan to continue taking the intradermal vaccine myself, but there are pros and cons to each method worth considering.

  1. Traditional Flu Shot


    The traditional flu shot is very versatile. It’s open to anyone age 6 months and above, as long as they’re not allergic to the shot and not currently sick at the time. The side effects are generally minor if any. Your arm might be a little sore after and occasionally people will feel a bit achy and/or develop a minor fever, which is still far better than getting the actual flu.

    The traditional flu shot is available at many places, including healthcare centers, schools, and local pharmacies. The shot is relatively inexpensive, around $30, and is usually covered by insurance.


    You have to get stuck with a needle.

  2. Nasal Flu Vaccine


    This is my personal favorite, and what I’d still be getting if I qualified. It’s the only method that requires no needles whatsoever. And there’s evidence to suggest that for young children, it’s more effective than the traditional shot.


    The nasal vaccine doesn’t work for everyone. You have to be between ages 2 and 49. You can’t be pregnant. You can’t be taking aspirin. You can’t have asthma or any other lung disease, heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, Guillain-Barre syndrome, or a weakened immune system. And you can’t be in contact with anyone who has a severely weakened immune system.

    Also, the side effects can be more severe than those caused by a traditional flu shot, and may include vomiting or fever. Most of the time, however, the side effects are minor.

    Nasal vaccines aren’t available at as many places as the regular flu shot. To find the place closest to you, use the HealthMap Vaccine Finder. A nasal vaccine will likely cost a bit more than a traditional shot, however most insurance companies cover it as well.

  3. Intradermal Flu Vaccine 


    The newest vaccination option on this list, the intradermal flu vaccine is called Fluzone and was first put on the market in 2011. It can be taken up to age 64, and doesn’t have all the other restrictions the nasal flu vaccine does. As mentioned, the needle is 90% smaller than those used in traditional flu shots and it only goes skin deep, so it doesn’t hurt very much.

    The potential side effects are also less serious than those of the nasal vaccine. As with a traditional shot, there’s a slight chance of feeling achy. The area around the shot may also get red and a bit itchy or sore.


    You have to be at least 18 to get the intradermal flu vaccine. As with the nasal vaccine, intradermal vaccines are available at fewer locations. You can find the one nearest you using Fluzone’s Flu Shot Locator. Also like the nasal vaccine, the intradermal vaccine costs more than a traditional shot—around $40. But once again, most insurance companies cover it.

So there you have it. And if you’re still not sure which vaccination to get, remember there’s no wrong answer. Whatever you choose, you’ll be protected against the flu so you can stay healthy and have fun.

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