Younger children advised to skip needle
CDC recommending nasal spray for kids 2-8
CHAMPAIGN — Getting a flu shot isn't necessarily a kid's favorite thing to do, but many younger children will likely be able to bypass the needle this year.
Beginning with the upcoming flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending healthy kids ages 2-8 get the nasal form of the vaccine because it may protect them better than flu shots. Studies found the nasal vaccine prevented about 50 percent more cases of flu in younger kids than the flu shot, the agency said.
For kids 9 and up, there's no recommendation on one vaccine over another, but infants and toddlers 6 months to age 2 are still advised to get the flu shot.
Regardless of which version is recommended, health experts advise parents to get their children vaccinated for the upcoming flu season, so if the nasal vaccine isn't available, kids 2-8 should still get a flu shot.
The nasal vaccine is "a preferable option," said Brandon Meline, director of maternal and child health for the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.
"But they're telling all physicians, 'Don't delay vaccinations based on inventory,'" he said. "It's just the response and protection is a little bit better with the FluMist. But we don't advise holding off. Getting vaccinated is the most important part."
Typically, there's more injectable than nasal vaccine available, but the Carle health system has ordered more nasal vaccine for the upcoming season, partly because of the CDC recommendation for younger children, according to Sandra Nielsen, Carle's flu-clinic coordinator.
Plus, she said, "we can get reimbursed for what we don't use. Before, it was unreturnable."
Nasal vaccine is indicated for people ages 2-49, but it isn't for all kids 2-8.
Some who should avoid it include those with an egg allergy, those with a weakened immune system, those getting aspirin therapy or taking medicines that include aspirin, children ages 2-4 with asthma or who have been wheezing in the past 12 months, and any child who has taken an influenza antiviral medicine in the past 48 hours, according to the CDC.
Some other precautions about nasal vaccine: It could raise the risk of wheezing for kids with asthma, and the safety hasn't been established in children who have diabetes, heart disease or neurological conditions that put them at risk for flu complications.
Christie Clinic has nasal vaccine available now through most of its provider offices, and will begin its public flu clinics Oct. 4, spokeswoman Jenna Shedenhelm said.
Carle is starting its own public flu clinics earlier than ever this year, on Sept. 17, beginning with a drive-through clinic at the Vineyard Church in Urbana. Dates and times for that and other Carle flu-vaccine clinics will be announced next week.
Carle is starting early in response to the CDC's advice that health care providers administer the vaccine as soon as possible when they have it on hand, Nielsen said. None of the nasal vaccine has arrived yet, she said, but Carle expects to receive it in a week or two.
Parents can ask their doctors about what flu vaccine is best and available for their kids, Nielsen said. But people coming to Carle's flu clinics will be questioned to be sure they get the right type for their age and health conditions, so "parents don't need to worry about giving the wrong vaccine for a child," she said.
Know your flu vaccines
The nasal vaccine is a live attenuated influenza vaccine made from weakened viruses, as opposed to the killed viruses in injectable vaccine.
This year's nasal vaccine protects against four viruses: an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus and two influenza B viruses.
Some kids up to age 8, especially those getting their first vaccination, will need two doses to be fully protected, regardless of method.
For either vaccine, protection begins about two weeks after reception.
Neither vaccine causes the flu. However, in kids, the nasal version can have short-term mild side effects such as runny nose, headache, wheezing, vomiting, muscle ache or fever. Side effects from the injection include low-grade fever, soreness at the site and aches.