Parents taking their kids to the pediatrician for flu vaccinations this
year are in for a big change. The nasal spray vaccine, FluMist, has been
deemed ineffective and flu shots are now the best choice, according to
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"This is a huge shift--almost one-third of flu vaccines given to children
in America have been via the spray," says
Steve Kwon, MD, a board-certified pediatrician at
St. Jude Heritage Medical Group. "Partly, that's because the nasal spray is a painless, easy
option compared to a shot, and that's attractive to parents whose
children don't like needles. And it's also because two years ago,
the CDC's Advisory Panel on Immunization Practices recommended FluMist
instead of shots for children."
So what's changed since then? The panel studied data from the past
few flu seasons and found the sprays actually provided minimal flu protection
for kids. In the most recent flu season, 2015-16, FluMist only had a 3
percent success rate in preventing the flu with kids ages 2 to 17. The
CDC reports that vaccine shots can cut the risk of flu by as much as 50
to 60 percent. Experts don't know why the nasal spray vaccine seemingly
lost its effectiveness.
The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement agreeing with the
CDC's decision to not use nasal flu vaccines. About 157 million to
168 million doses of flu vaccine shots are slated for this coming flu
season. The flu vaccine is recommended for people older than 6 months
(babies younger than that should not have a flu vaccine), and Dr. Kwon
stresses that it's important to get children vaccinated even if they
are leery of shots. Here are some of Dr. Kwon's suggestions on ways
you can make the experience as pain free as possible:
- Tell the doctor's office in advance if your child doesn't like
shots, so the pediatrician or nurse can help her during the process.
- Let her read a book, watch a movie on a tablet or play with a small toy
to take her mind off the shot.
- Younger kids may want you to hold their hand or let them sit on your lap
for comfort. Teens probably won't be as eager to do that--they can
relax with some deep breathing.
- Don't be negative about shots. Kids can use your behavior as a cue,
so be positive. Don't tell them it won't hurt--it does--but you
can emphasize that it will be over quickly.
- Ask your pediatrician if you can give your child ibuprofen about an hour
prior to getting the shot, so it won't be as painful.
- Offer sweet relief, such as a bite of candy during the shot or the promise
of a special outing or treat when the shot is done.
If you have any questions about flu shots, contact your pediatrician. Learn
Dr. Kwon. Learn more about
St. Jude Heritage Medical Group.
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Flu vaccines are the best preventive measure against catching a virus.
Here's why it's important for children:
- An average of 20,000 U.S. kids younger than 5 are hospitalized every year
because of the flu.
- Pediatric deaths caused by the flu have ranged from 37 to 171 per flu season
since the 2004-05 season.
- Children younger than 2 are at the highest risk for severe complications
from the flu, such as pneumonia or heart inflammation.
- Flu shots also protect the people around children, especially those who
can't get flu vaccines such as younger siblings who are less than
6 months old.