An advisory committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently recommended that the nasal spray influenza vaccine not be used this upcoming flu season. In this Q&A, Dr. Jasjit Singh, medical director of infection prevention and control at CHOC Children’s, offers an explanation for your patients and their families.
Q: What does this mean for influenza vaccine recommendations for the upcoming flu season?
A: All individuals over the age of 6 months are recommended to get the influenza vaccine, and that will continue to be the case. However, for this season at least, the nasal flu vaccine is not an option. Therefore, parents will need to plan for their children to get the flu shot this upcoming season.
Q: How does the standard flu shot differ from the nasal spray version in terms of composition and effectiveness?
A: Both the flu shot and the nasal spray contain the anticipated predominant circulating strains of influenza every year, but the nasal spray strains are made of weakened live virus while the flu shot is made of inactivated viral components. The CDC reviewed data from this past season that suggested that the nasal spray did not perform as well as it had in the past.
Q: Besides ensuring their children get a flu shot, what else can parents do to help prevent the flu?
A: In addition to ensuring their child is vaccinated against the flu every year, there are many things parents and other caregivers can do to help prevent the flu. Use proper hand-washing techniques, use respiratory etiquette, and stay home from work or school if you are sick with the flu, to prevent spreading it to others.
Q: What do you anticipate will be parents’ reactions to this recommendation? Is there anything else you’d like them to know? Is there anything else you’d like to share with parents about the importance of vaccinations?
A: Vaccinations are one of the most effective public health measures that have been developed and they save thousands of lives each year. Influenza vaccinations are important because young children can get quite sick from the flu, and some even require hospitalization. Every year there are pediatric deaths in the U.S. due to influenza, about half of which occur in normal healthy children. Children can pass influenza on to the elderly or other fragile members of our community. It’s important for adults to get the flu shot too, particularly those who are caring for young children. Even though the nasal spray is not an option for vaccinating this particular season, it is still important to have your child vaccinated for this year.