This year, get your child a flu shot, not the nasal mist

pediatrician and babyWhile many parents (and kids) prefer the nasal mist flu vaccine, evidence shows that the flu shot is the best way to protect your child from the flu this year.

Why should my child get the flu shot instead of the nasal mist?

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is a panel of experts that advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They looked at data from 2013 through 2016 and found that the nasal spray was less effective than the flu shot.

The flu nasal spray contains a live but weakened version of the flu virus. Typically, vaccines containing weakened viruses are more effective and cause a stronger immune response than vaccines with dead viruses (such as the flu shot). Initial data suggested that this was the case with the nasal spray. In 2014, the ACIP actually recommended the nasal spray over the flu shot for children.

However, during the 2015-2016 flu season, the nasal flu vaccine’s protection rate was only 3 percent. This means that no protective benefit could be measured. Its effectiveness in the previous two flu seasons was also low. In contrast, the flu shot was 63 percent effective among children aged 2 to 17 during the 2015-2016 flu season.

Get vaccinated against the flu every year

There are many different flu viruses, and they’re always changing. Each year a new flu vaccine is made to protect against the three or four flu viruses expected to make people sick during the upcoming flu season. Protection from the vaccine only lasts about a year, so it’s important to get vaccinated every year.

While many parents (and kids) prefer the nasal mist, evidence shows that the flu shot is the best way to protect your child from the flu this year. The traditional flu shot is effective. Both the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that everyone older than 6 months get the flu vaccine each year. It’s especially important for children younger than 5 to get the vaccine because they’re more likely to have serious health problems caused by the flu.

The flu shot is important for pregnant women too

Pregnant women or women planning to get pregnant also need their flu shot every year (the flu nasal spray was never recommended for use during pregnancy). If you get sick with the flu during pregnancy, you’re more likely than other adults to have serious complications. The best way to protect yourself is to get the flu shot each year before flu season, which runs from about October through May. Even though you’re more likely to get the flu during flu season, you can get it any time of year.

The ACIP recommendation must be reviewed and approved by the CDC director before it becomes policy.

Questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

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