July 1, 2016

Shots may be the only recommended vaccine option next flu season.


Nasal flu sprays won’t be an option for fall 2016 after data shows it was ineffective last year.  A committee advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending against using the FluMist nasal spray vaccine for 2016-2017. If the recommendation is taken, the only option for flu vaccine delivery next season will be the shot.

Data for children 2 years through 17 who received the nasal spray vaccine during the 2015-2016 flu season showed no measurable protection from influenza. During that same time, the traditional flu shot was estimated at 63 percent effective for the same age group.

Nasal spray vaccine delivery has been an option since 2003. In past years, it was shown to be safe and effective, although evidence does show the effectiveness declining over the two previous flu seasons. Scientists aren’t sure why it failed to protect against the flu last season.

Joseph Bresee, M.D., a flu expert at the CDC, theorized to the Associated Press that the addition of a fourth strain of weakened influenza virus to the nasal spray might have reduced the spray’s effectiveness. Nasal spray vaccines approved before this season protected against only three strains of influenza.

While this is bad news for the needle-phobic, it shows that doctors and scientists are watching vaccine effectiveness closely and being transparent about flu facts.

“This recommendation should be reassuring to parents,” says Joe Gigante, M.D., Professor of Pediatrics at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. “Vaccines are constantly monitored for safety and effectiveness. In this case, the monitoring data showing that the nasal flu vaccine was not effective this past flu season while the flu shot was effective, which led to this recommendation.”

Approved for ages 2 to 49 years, the nasal spray vaccine is made with live weakened viruses, whereas the shot contains inactivated virus. While most of the sprays were used for children, adults ages 18 to 49 could have the spray, but typically got the traditional shot because it was more effective for that age group.

Help your child cope with flu shots with these tips.

  • Be honest. Tell your child that an injection is a possibility at the doctor’s office. Explain to them that it will probably hurt, but shots may protects them from getting very sick.
  • Distractions can help. Play with a favorite toy or sing a favorite song during the vaccination. Some parents even ask their children to loudly repeat, ouch, ouch, ouch while getting a shot.
  • Bribes work. A treat after a shot can dull the pain.

IVs, blood draws and injections can be scary for a child, but these tips can help make it easier.