Nasal flu vaccine is not effective this year, CDC confirms

Nasal spray flu vaccination has been a popular choice among parents wanting painless flu protection for their kids. But earlier this year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said FluMist has not effectively protected kids or adults against flu for years and shouldn’t be used this flu season — the American Academy of Pediatrics agreed.

The CDC examined data from the past three flu seasons, which showed that FluMist only reduced the risk of getting influenza by 3 percent over the past three flu seasons. In comparison, the flu shot protected about 63 percent of those who received it.

It’s not clear why nasal spray flu vaccination isn’t working. The spray uses live but weakened strains of flu virus to stimulate the immune system. Its effectiveness began to change three years ago when coverage was added against a fourth strain of the influenza virus. There could be some kind of interference among the viruses that makes it less effective, but we don’t know for sure.

Now that flu season has begun, it’s recommended that kids and adults should get the flu shot for vaccination. This news may be disappointing to some, but the injected flu vaccine is the best preventative measure that we have to protect everyone against influenza. The recommendation is that just about everyone should be vaccinated against influenza every year starting at 6 months of age.

Though nasal spray flu vaccination accounts for about one-third of all flu vaccines given to children, the CDC says there’s no cause for concern about shortages in this season’s supply of flu vaccines. But the earlier the community can get vaccinated, the better.

The advice I give to parents who normally get the spray for their children includes:

  • Don’t tell your kids the shot won’t hurt.
  • Be honest and tell them it might hurt a bit, but it doesn’t last long.
  • Explain why the shot is important to protect them.
  • Make vaccination a family affair and get your flu shot with them.

Still debating whether flu vaccination is right for you? Learn more about vaccine effectiveness and why some people feel mild reactions after receiving the seasonal flu vaccine.

About the author

Roger Khetan, MD
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Roger Khetan, MD, FACP, FHM is an internal medicine physician on the medical staff at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas. Dr. Khetan received his medical degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and completed his internship at the same institution. Dr. Khetan completed a residency in anesthesiology at Allegheny General Hospital and a residency in internal medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. He is a member of the American Medical Association, Dallas County Medical Society, American College of Physicians, Society of Hospital Medicine, Texas Club of Internists and the Texas Medical Association. Dr. Khetan is professionally interested in preventative health care, heart disease, geriatrics, asthma and chronic disease management. He also has interest in lobbying locally, statewide and nationally for patient and provider rights.

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Nasal flu vaccine is not effective this year, CDC confirms