We all know the flu vaccine is important. In recent years, FluMist has started offering it in a nasal spray instead of a shot. This is especially popular with those who hate needles, including young children — but is the flu vaccine spray as effective as the shot? The CDC has weighed in with its opinion.
First of all, let’s get one thing out of the way and clear: vaccines work, and they are an absolutely critical tool in the fight to ensure that dangerous diseases do not spread uncontrolled throughout the population. Probably the most well-known vaccine would be the ubiquitous flu shot, offered everywhere from your doctor’s office to the neighborhood drugstore. Each flu season, the flu vaccine is re-formulated to combat the specific influenza version that’s going around at the time, meaning it’s important to be re-vaccinated at the beginning of each season.
Often, the only thing stopping people from going through with their flu shot is their dislike of needles. Sure, the flu shot only lasts for a brief moment, and the needle is tiny — but for some, the fear of shots is too much to overcome to get them through the door and into the hands of a medical professional who can inoculate them. Enter FluMist, a nasal spray produced by MedImmune, which was approved by the FDA in 2003 as an alternative to inoculation. The spray was immediately popular, especially among children (the group most commonly adverse to needles).
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has been gathering data about the effectiveness of FluMist, and some troubling research began rolling in last year. They noticed that its effectiveness was losing ground against the traditional shot — and based on all available information, they have officially pulled their recommendation from FluMist this season, citing too large of an effectiveness gap between the spray and the shot.
So, to answer the question, no: the flu vaccine spray FluMist does not work as well as a flu shot. Everyone 6 months old and older should get the regular shot this year. Unvaccinated children are the most susceptible to complications or death from influenza, so it’s especially critical that kids receive the vaccination… despite the potential scariness of the needle. It’s up to parents and pediatricians to minimize that fear; because while a needle might be a little scary, unchecked influenza can be much, much worse.