That FluMist Vaccine You Gave Your Kid Is Only 3 Percent Effective

flumist not effective
Brace yourself for a painful flu season next time around: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now recommending that the nasal flu vaccine FluMist not be used, as it's been found to be significantly less effective than the flu shot. This news comes as quite a shock (and disappointment) to parents and pediatricians everywhere. After its introduction, the flu mist was widely thought to be more effective in children under 8 years of age -- not to mention less traumatic -- than the shot. So what happened, and what does it mean?


Well, the short answer is that no one is officially sure what happened. The FDA has been working with FluMist manufacturer MedImmune to try to figure out the reason behind the drop in the vaccine's efficacy rates, but we don't have answers yet.

What we do know is that this past year, kids who got the mist were just 3 percent protected against the flu, whereas the flu shot had an estimated effectiveness of 63 percent for kids ages 2 through 17 years, the CDC found. That's a pretty radical difference, especially considering that nasal spray vaccines account for approximately one-third of all vaccines given to kids. 

More from CafeMom: 10 Flu Shot Facts You Should Know Before Getting the Vaccine

That's a lot of kids with a lot of parents who now have a lot of questions. For example: Now that this past flu season is history, there's not much any parent can do about having given her kid FluMist -- but are there any newly discovered side effects we should be worried about? 

Probably not, CDC spokesperson Kristen Nordlund told CafeMom.

"We don't think there were any harmful effects for people who received the nasal spray," said Nordlund. "It's likely that the nasal spray offered protection for some individuals, but on a population level, the data showed it wasn't as effective as the flu shot."

And while the nasal spray used a live attenuated (or weakened) virus as opposed to the flu shot, which uses an inactivated form of the virus, that doesn't mean it actually caused the flu.

"Theoretically, vaccines containing live viruses -- like the nasal spray -- can cause a stronger immune response than vaccines with inactivated virus, like the flu shot," said Nordlund.

Basically, if your kid got the flu last year after getting FluMist, then he or she probably just caught the flu because the vaccine didn't work properly. And that's a huge bummer, but at least going forward your kids will be getting the real deal -- even if it is delivered via a needle, which will no doubt make next fall's trip to the pediatrician's office slightly unpleasant.

More from CafeMom: Mom Gets a Flu Shot by Mistake & Ends Up Pregnant

Even if it won't be a walk in the park, you might want to make sure you make an appointment early in the season, as some people are worried that this news could mean a shortage in flu shots. In a statement, the CDC said it is "working with manufacturers throughout the summer to ensure there is enough vaccine supply to meet the demand." 

Don't lose heart, FluMist fans: This recommendation is an interim decision, which means it could be reversed next year when reviewed with additional data. But in the meantime, get those Band-Aids ready!

Image via antoniodiaz/Shutterstock

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