FluMist, shots: What parents need to know this season
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the flu mist is ineffective and should not be used in 2016-17. Dr. Sandra Arnold, division chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Le Bonheur, addresses concerns and explains why getting a flu shot is important.
What is the difference between the vaccine from a shot and the nasal spray?
The flu shot contains inactivated virus and the flu mist contains live attenuated virus, which is a virus that is alive but has been altered so that it can’t make you ill. Parents of children who received the flu mist vaccine last year should not worry. The vaccine was not harmful but according to the CDC it did not appear to provide any protection from the flu. Vaccine effectiveness varies from year to year.
Why does vaccine effectiveness vary?
Vaccine effectiveness varies every year and from person to person. Some people have stronger immune responses than others. Young children who have not had much exposure to influenza need to take two doses of the flu vaccines to develop the same levels of protection as older children. Elderly adults have weaker responses to flu vaccines. Flu viruses are constantly changing due to genetic mutations and the viruses that go into the vaccine every year are decided on months before the flu shot is available to provide time for the vaccine to be manufactured.
The recommendation from the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics is that no one should receive the nasal spray vaccine this year. The CDC is working with manufacturers to make sure there is enough injectable vaccine for anyone who wants or needs the vaccine.
If effectiveness varies, why should my child get the flu shot every year?
Getting a flu shot is an important way to protect your children against serious illness. The flu is not just a cold. Symptoms of fever, muscle aches and cough can last for many days. Some people with the flu can develop pneumonia either from the flu virus or from bacteria that can get into the lungs more easily because of the flu. The most severe complications from the flu occur in children younger than 2 years old and in children with medical conditions such as asthma and other lungs diseases, hear diseases, diabetes and other chronic illness.
The flu shot is the best way to protect your child. Also, vaccinating children helps to protect the elderly, who don’t have as good a response to the vaccine, from the flu as well. Make sure to get your children their flu shots as soon as your pediatrician’s office offers them. We never know when the flu season will begin, so the sooner your children get vaccinated, the better.