SEATTLE-- Have you had your flu shot yet?
The Centers for Disease Control says 80,000 people died from flu complications last season, making it one of the worst flu seasons in decades. Health care providers are making a big push to get people vaccinated by the end of October.
"You just never know how early the flu season will hit," said Jessica Sandhu of Kaiser Permanente. "So it's better to be protected early on. That's the best way to protect yourself and others against the virus."
That's why the health care provider set up shop at Westlake Center in downtown Seattle this week, offering free flu shots.
They had plenty of takers. Amy Nygaard yelped 'oww!' with her shot, but said despite a fear of needles, she always gets one.
"Preventative care," she said. "I work in a large office building and want everyone to get it. Herd immunity.
One day, getting vaccinated might become even more appealing, thanks to local research that aims to take the needle out of the shot.
Scientists at Seattle's Infectious Disease Research Institute just tested a needle-free vaccine. They envision something so simple, you could get it in the mail.
"The future embodiment would basically be a band aid," said Darrick Carter, IDRI Vice President and lead author of the study. "These microneedles, you could hardly see them. They would be on the surface of the band aid. You would just put the band aid on, maybe press on it to make sure it goes in, leave it on for a minute, peel it off and you have your immunization done."
The first human trial was small, with just 100 people. But it was promising. Now researchers are looking for funding for larger trials, with the hope we could be using something like a flu patch in five to ten years.
Not only are the microneedles pain free, they might do a better job. Scientists said they trigger a danger signal in the skin that tells the immune system to fight the strain of flu they're targeting, and other diverse strains as well.
"What happens when you have a very high quality immune response, is you start developing antibodies that are very diverse. And these diverse antibodies start recognizing things that are related," Carter said.
That type of coverage could dramatically reduce the number of flu deaths here and around the world. And it would make the annual chore of flu shots more tolerable.
Nygaard says one more thing would also help.
"I think if they gave us candy like when we were kids, that would be even better," she said.