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Flu Shot or Nasal Spray: Which Is Better?

Thursday, 13 November 2014 05:28 PM

Public-health officials recommend that everyone over the age of 6 months get vaccinated against flu.  But Alicia Fry, a medical officer in the influenza division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, explains that different types of vaccine — a flu shot or a nasal spray — may work better for some people, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Influenza causes about 30,000 U.S. deaths and 200,000 hospitalizations, mainly among older people and young children.
 “The flu causes a spectrum of illness. It’s not always just the sniffles,” said Dr. Fry. Yet only about half of all Americans get a flu shot each year.
Needle flu shots contain inactivated influenza virus that puts the body’s immune system on guard for when a real virus comes along. By contrast, the spray vaccine — sold in the U.S. under the brand name FluMist — contains live weakened viruses, albeit weakened ones.
A recent CDC comparison of flu shots and nasal sprays found that in children ages 2 through 8, the nasal spray was more effective in preventing flu. The CDC began recommending the spray for healthy children in that age group this year. But the agency emphasized that if the spray isn’t available, children should get a shot rather than delay being vaccinated.
“FluMist is cold-adapted, so it can replicate in your nose. But as soon as it goes anywhere else warmer in your body, it dies,” explained Dr. Fry. “We think that the live vaccine acts like a regular flu infection, so you get a more robust immune reaction to it,” even in viruses that evolve and diverge from the original strain, she says.
Some people complain about feeling a little fluish after the mist is administered, which means the vaccine is working, Dr. Fry said. Although others might say they feel under the weather after a shot, getting flu from it isn’t possible. “The shot is an inactivated virus — you cannot get the flu from the shot,” Dr. Fry noted.
Not everyone should have the nasal-spray vaccination. It is approved only for people between the ages of 2 and 49 (the flu shot, by contrast, is approved for use in most people over the age of 6 months). Among various restrictions: People on some antiviral drugs and those with a compromised immune system shouldn’t get the spray. And people with a history of asthma might need to avoid it.
People allergic to eggs also shouldn’t get a nasal-spray vaccine, but there are egg-free varieties available, sold as FluBlok.
Federal health data showed the nasal spray didn’t work in last year’s flu season against H1N1, one of the four strains of flu virus contained in both shot and spray vaccines
Since flu vaccine takes two weeks to take effect, CDC officials are urging people to get vaccinated now.

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CDC officials recommend that everyone over the age of 6 months get vaccinated against flu. But which is better: the shot or spray?
flu, shot, nasal, needle, compare, cdc
Thursday, 13 November 2014 05:28 PM
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