It’s that time of year again. It’s time to roll up your sleeve and get your flu vaccine. This year however, things have changed. You won’t have a choice between the shot or the FluMist. New research is out showing that the FluMist has not been as effective against the prominent circulating strains of influenza as the shot has for the last three years, while prior to that it had been comparable. The most recent numbers showed that the FluMist was 3% effective versus the 63% effectiveness of the shot during the 2015-2016 flu season. Therefore the Center for Disease Control Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has removed FluMist from the recommendation for influenza vaccination for this year.
What caused this change to happen you ask? The verdict is still out. The CDC is continuing to look at data to try and figure out what went wrong. The big change seems to have occurred when the vaccine changed from a three component to four component vaccine. More investigation is needed to decide if and when it will return. This doesn’t change the recommendations. The ACIP is still recommending that everyone over the age of 6 months get a flu vaccine and with good reason.
Every year approximately 20,000 children under 5 years old are hospitalized with complications due to the influenza virus. Many of these children were previously healthy with no other chronic conditions. Influenza is a respiratory illness similar to a cold that is caused by a virus. Many of the symptoms resemble those you might have with any other cold and can be hard to distinguish from a cold without being tested.
Influenza is spread very easily. Every time an infected person coughs, sneezes, or spits while talking the droplets that land on objects or people have the virus in them and can infect you. A person who seems healthy can carry the virus and infect other people, as the virus can take 1-4 days to make you sick. The best way to prevent getting sick is to get vaccinated.
Many places already have the flu vaccine and are already giving them out. It is recommended that children 6 months to 8 years get two doses at least one month apart the first year, then they only need one dose each year after that year. Everyone else needs one shot every year to provide immunity.
Worried about catching the flu from the vaccine? You can’t. The ingredients in the vaccine are inactivated or recombinant (which means no virus in it at all) and cannot cause illness. The shot can cause you to have some soreness at the site and achiness over the next day or two. It is sort of like when your child gets their vaccines. The doctor usually tells you they may be sore, run a temp, or just be fussy for a day or two after their vaccines. These symptoms are much milder than the actual flu and are a result of your body working to make antibodies to protect you from the flu. If you do get sick after the vaccine, it is likely you were already about to get sick from being exposed to someone who was sick. Remember the vaccine takes about two weeks to provide full immunity so don’t delay. Call your child’s doctor today and schedule a time for the vaccine.