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Sharp Health News

Is a nasal spray flu vaccine effective?

Nov. 23, 2020

Nasal spray mist

Getting a shot, no matter how important it is to your health, can cause anxiety and sometimes pain.

Many people, especially parents of young children, were relieved when the nasal spray flu vaccine called FluMist® became available. However, researchers determined the nasal spray vaccine was less effective in children than the flu shot on one of the four flu strains present during one flu season. While other countries like Canada allowed the nasal spray, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) did not recommend FluMist from 2016 through 2018. Last year, the CDC added it back into the rotation.

So this year, when getting the flu vaccine is more important than ever due to COVID-19 and a potential “twindemic,” what’s the verdict on the nasal spray vaccine?

According to Dr. Howard Smart, chair of Pediatrics at Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, this year’s version of FluMist is an effective option — maybe even more so than the shot.

“Each year, manufacturers modify the various vaccines based on what they know about the strains of the flu virus. This year’s version of FluMist is proving to be as effective as shots in protecting against the flu. As an added bonus, studies have shown the protection from the nasal spray may last longer than the shots.”

Typically, providers offer FluMist to children because they are often fearful of shots. However, Dr. Smart says that he offers the nasal spray to parents and children. The CDC says it is appropriate for anyone between the ages of 6 months to 49 years old. FluMist is not recommended for those under 2 years old or age 50 and older. Pregnant women or people with weakened immune systems should not receive the nasal spray flu vaccine. Your health care provider can recommend the best version of the flu vaccine for you.

“The important thing this year is to get vaccinated against the flu. If your doctor recommends the nasal spray vaccine, you can be confident it will protect you just as well, if not better, than the vaccine administered by shot,” says Dr. Smart.

And if the painless administration prevents a few tears along the way, so much the better.

Learn more about where you can find the flu vaccine in San Diego.

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