Hate Shots? They’re the Best Method for the Flu Vaccine

Nasal spray vaccine provides no benefit, CDC says
Hate Shots? They're the Best Method for the Flu Vaccine

If your child — or you — have an aversion to needles, you may like to get your flu vaccine as a nasal spray. But medical experts are advising against getting this kind of vaccine for the flu this year.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee recently issued a statement that the nasal spray influenza vaccine should not be used during the upcoming flu season.

The reason? The nasal spray vaccine provided poor or low protection compared to the injectable vaccine, the CDC committee found. In 2015, the spray vaccine had 3 percent effectiveness. In other words, the nasal spray provided no protective benefit.

The CDC committee includes 15 immunization experts. It reviewed data from previous flu seasons, including the most recent season. The review compared the nasal spray vaccine with the standard flu shot.

Little protection

Experts aren’t sure why the nasal spray vaccine has performed so poorly.

The nasal spray vaccine contains live, weakened flu viruses and is the only non-injection flu vaccine on the market. By contrast, the flu shot is an inactivated influenza vaccine.

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The FDA first approved the nasal spray in 2003. An estimated one-third of all flu vaccinations administered to children are nasal spray, the CDC says.

“When the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices looked at how effective the nasal spray been over the last three years, and especially over the last year, it certainly seems that it’s not nearly as effective as the injectable forms of the influenza vaccine,” says pediatric infectious disease specialist Camille Sabella, MD.

This year, the flu shot will be the best way to protect your child from the flu, Dr. Sabella says. She was not part of the CDC Advisory Committee.

Protection varies

Influenza is a serious disease that causes millions of illnesses, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and thousands or tens of thousands of deaths each year.

The protection offered by flu vaccines can vary, the CDC says. But the flu shot’s overall estimate of effectiveness of 49 percent suggests that millions of people were protected against flu last season, the CDC says.

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The CDC has recommended an annual influenza vaccination for everyone ages 6 months and older since February 24, 2010.

The agency briefly had a preferential recommendation for nasal spray vaccine for young children during 2014-2015. But during the 2015-2016 season, influenza vaccination was recommended without any preference for one vaccine type or formulation over another.

Keeping everyone healthy

Getting your child vaccinated keeps your child healthy — and everyone around them as well. This is why it’s so important that your child is vaccinated, Dr. Sabella says.

“Children, especially young children, transmit viruses very easily to each other and to adults,” Dr. Sabella says. “Whenever we can protect a child against influenza, we’re not only protecting that particular child against the complications of flu but we’re also protecting everyone around them.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society also support the CDC committee’s stance.

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