Flu season is going to look a little different this year as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended against using the nasal flu vaccine. This will obviously impact many children, as the CDC estimates that nearly one-third of all kids who receive flu vaccinations in the United States use the nasal spray.
Such a change is bound to spark many questions, so here are some answers we hope will help:
Why is the nasal flu vaccine not being recommended for the upcoming flu season?
The CDC studied the best data and statistics available for the past three years and concluded that the nasal flu vaccine simply hasn’t been as effective as the flu shot. This was especially notable this past flu season when the nasal vaccine was less than 5 percent effective in preventing influenza.
Does this mean that flu vaccines in general are not effective?
In contrast to the nasal vaccine, the flu shot was more than 60 percent effective. Flu vaccines are the best way to prevent influenza, it’s just that each year there is some variability in how well the vaccines work because of constant changes in the many flu strains that can cause the illness. In other words, influenza is a moving target, and it was becoming clear that the nasal flu vaccine – in its current state – was not an effective weapon against it.
Will the nasal flu vaccine ever come back?
The CDC makes its recommendations based on the latest data and figures, so it will reconsider the nasal flu vaccine again next year when there is additional information. Scientists and physicians are going to continue to study why the nasal spray became less effective over the years, and if it can be made more effective with some adjustments, then it likely will return. Just not for the 2016-17 flu season.
– Michael Gutzeit, MD, chief medical officer and chief safety officer, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin
Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin is the region’s only independent health care system dedicated solely to the health and well-being of children.
Learn more about Michael Gutzeit, MD.