What is the FluMist Nasal Spray Flu Vaccine?

Flu Protection For Kids Without a Shot!

A child gets the FluMist flu vaccine to help decrease his risk of getting the flu.
A child gets the FluMist flu vaccine to help decrease his risk of getting the flu. Photo by Vincent Iannelli, MD

FluMist is an intranasal live virus influenza vaccine for healthy children and adolescents, ages 2 to 17 years, and healthy adults, ages 18 to 49.

Children 2 to 8 years old need two doses at least 4 weeks apart the first year that they get Flumist.

FluMist Isn't for Everyone

Certian patients are not good candidates for FluMist. You should not get FluMist if you (or your children):

  • are under 2 years of age
  • are aged 50 years or over
  • have asthma or other reactive airway diseases
  • have chronic underlying medical conditions that may predispose you to severe flu infections
  • have problems with immune suppression, including those with immune deficiency diseases, such as AIDS or cancer, and people taking immunosuppressants
  • are allergic to eggs or to a previous dose of the vaccine

FluMist vs. Flu Shots

In addition to the benefit of not getting a shot, several studies show FluMist may actually provide better protection against the flu than a flu shot. One study from the Journal of Pediatrics concluded that "live attenuated influenza vaccine was a safe and more effective alternative to inactivated vaccine."

How much does FluMist cost?

FluMist is more expensive than a regular flu shot, but the price has come down over the years. And most insurance companies now pay for it too, making it a more affordable option now than it was in previous years.

FluMist and Flu Shortages

FluMist is an especially good option for certain high priority people who can't get a flu shot in years when there are flu shot shortages. This includes:

  • out-of-home caregivers
  • household contacts of children who are less than six months old
  • parents, siblings, and daycare workers who have close contact with a newborn or young infant who is less than six months old
  • most health-care workers, unless they care for severely immunocompromised patients
  • others who are not pregnant and younger than 50 years old

FluMist and Flu Tests

Since FluMist is a live vaccine sprayed in a child's nose, it can cause a positive result on a rapid flu test. Therefore, notify the clinician if your child received FluMist so she can accurately interpret the results.

FluMist Effectiveness

While Flumist is usually thought to be as effective or even more effective than flu shots in children, a recent report did find that "During 2013-2014 there was no measurable effectiveness for LAIV against influenza A (H1N1) among children enrolled in the study."

That didn't change any recommendations for the use of FluMist though, at least not until after the 2015-16 flu season, when studies showed it was only 3% effective (vs the 63% effectiveness of a flu shot) and a new recommendation was made "that live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV), also known as the “nasal spray” flu vaccine, should not be used during the 2016-2017 flu season.

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FluMist Side Effects & Precautions

Before your child gets a dose of FluMist, you should know about the side effects and precautions.

The most common side effects, according to the FluMist website, include:

  • a runny or stuffy nose
  • a fever over 100 degrees Fahrenheit
  • a sore throat

If you or your child have certain health conditions, you must tell your healthcare provider before receiving FluMist. These conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • a severely weakened immune system
  • heart, lung or kidney problems
  • diabetes

Sources:

Intranasal influenza vaccine may be a safe, effective option for many children. Lin K - J Pediatr - 01-JUL-2007; 151(1): 102-3

Comparison of the efficacy and safety of live attenuated cold-adapted influenza vaccine, trivalent, with trivalent inactivated influenza virus vaccine in children and adolescents with asthma. Fleming DM - Pediatr Infect Dis J - 01-OCT-2006; 25(10): 860-9 CDC.

FluMist Quadrivalent: Myth vs. Fact

H1N1 Clinicians Questions and Answers. Recommendations for the 2009 H1N1 Vaccine.

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