University prof uses alternative flu-shot technique

The vaccine is injected into the skin rather than into the muscle as usual.

Tatum Fjerstad

A University professor is using a shot technique that uses five times less flu vaccine than traditional techniques.

A small dose of the vaccine is injected into, rather than under, the skin. The intradermal shot differs from the usual shot, which is given in the muscles.

“It provides better immunity with no side effects,” said Warren Warwick, a professor of pediatrics.

Though he’s not the first professor to use the technique, it’s something he’s been practicing for more than 40 years.

Warwick said he has given the shot to his family, friends and relatives intradermally when the vaccine was for sale, and none of them caught the flu.

But Warwick does not foresee large-scale use of the intradermal method any time soon, he said. The shot has not been widely used because of its complexity, inefficiency and costs, Warwick said.

“The intramuscular’s aim-and-shoot technique is easier to perform,” Warwick said.

The intradermal technique requires 15 minutes of special training. If the shot is given under the skin or improperly, it is useless, he said.

It takes up to one minute to give the intradermal shot, compared with the mere seconds it takes to give the shot intramuscularly.

Compared with the intramuscular technique, it costs more to train individuals to administer the intradermal shot correctly, Warwick said.

The time it takes to administer the shot would hinder servicing the maximum amount of people in the shortest amount of time, he added.

The flu vaccine companies weren’t making enough money off the sale of the vaccine, Warwick said, which is why the supply is so low this year. He said that if people used less of the vaccine, companies would have to charge less and make even less money.

However, there is a big trade- off, Warwick said. The intradermal shot uses five to 10 times more energy, but serves five to 10 times more patients.

“In times of shortage, the intradermal technique should be considered to protect larger populations and prevent or control an epidemic,” Warwick said.

He said his practice of this technique has recently dwindled, but he still performs the technique for patients who won’t take the shot intramuscularly because of bad experiences.

“These patients would rather run the risk of getting the flu over getting sick from the shot,” he said.

Sarah Linder-Stenzel, a third-year pharmacy doctoral student, said that drug companies would make little money off Warwick’s technique because it uses less vaccine – and they already have trouble making money on the drug.

The intradermal technique is not widely known because the Food and Drug Administration has not approved it, said Brooke Luedtke, a third-year student getting her doctorate in the School of Pharmacy.

“It’s great to know the fact that there are alternative options to make sure everyone that wants and needs vaccines can get one,” she said.