Good news for needle-phobic kids everywhere. US health experts say giving the children of ages 2 to 8 the flu vaccine via a nasal spray offers better protection than the traditional shot. According to a decision from the Advisory Committee on Immunization (ACIP), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine advisory panel says that young children who get the seasonal influenza vaccine with a nasal spritz are about half as likely to develop the illness compared to those getting the traditional flu shot.
Currently, the only flu vaccine spray on the market is AstraZeneca’s FluMist and it is approved for people aged 2 to 49. Instead of using a killed virus, the spray is made from a live but weakened flu virus.
The spray triggers a stronger immune response in children who may have never had the flu before, experts say. Kids within that age group are about half as likely to get the flu if they get the nasal spray vaccine instead of a shot, research has shown.
Although federal health officials usually adopt the recommendations of the committee, the nation’s largest pediatrician’s group objected to the new recommendation.
FluMist is more expensive, it can’t be used for everyone and doctors have already ordered their vaccine doses for the fall flu season, a representative of the American Academy of Pediatrics said during the meeting.
But health officials stressed that flu shots are perfectly fine to use. FluMist costs about $23 and shots range from about $8 to $22.
“I agree with the panel’s recommendation,” said one expert in infectious disease, Dr. Marc Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. “Kids don’t like shots, so the spray is a perfect alternative.”
The ACIP recommendation handed down late Wednesday was based on a review of available studies.