Kids need to get their flu shot the traditional way because U.S. health officials stated the nasal spray version does not work as expected. The flu nasal spray dose is the only pain-free method but kids, and needle-phobic adults will have to make an effort to avoid the virus.

FluMist is the popular spray used in each nostril to avoid kids from getting sick. It has accounted for about a third of pediatric flu vaccination in recent years, but the results were not the expected. In the past few years, FluMist has not protected people for certain influenza strains as well as regular flu shots, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Scientists have not figured out yet why the spray is not as efficient as regular vaccines.

Flu Shot
The CDC has not determined yet what caused “the recent poor performance” of the flu nasal spray. Image credit: Doug Finger/Gainesville Sun/Landov

Flu is most dangerous for children, pregnant women, adults over 65 and people with certain health conditions such as asthma or heart disease. Adults still have other pain-free options but children do not.

There are several tricks to control anxiety in kids getting a shot, but the best advice for parents is telling their children that the shot might hurt a little, but it does not last long. Doctors say the worst you can do is telling them it will not hurt.

Among the methods to keep calm kids, physicians make them cough at the time of the poke or tell them to take a big breath when the needle is going to touch the skin. Surprisingly, physicians say the youngest are often the ones who feel braver and go first to show older siblings.

Whether they like it or not, children must be vaccinated against the flu, because the virus can even kill healthy and young adults.

For pregnant women, if the mom gets the shot, the child will be protected against flu within the first six months of life.

You might get your flu shot too soon because of marketing

Now, it is common to find signs on drugstores saying they have flu shots available since August, even when usually, people get their vaccines in October to be protected for the flu season peak that takes place between January and February.

Since a decade ago, the number of drugstores that have a retail medical clinic inside has increased all over the country, meaning marketing on shots has become popular and might be making people get their shot too soon.

Flu Shot
Ad placed at CVS store. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that is safe to make flu shots available to all age groups whenever the vaccine becomes available. Image credit: Darron Cummings/AP

Marketing campaigns start when the shots become available in August, and they are found in a significant number of drugstores as long as the supply lasts. Signs read “Come in and get your flu shot” and “Flu shots now available. No wait.”

There are also incentives. For example, CVS offers a 20 percent-off shopping pass for everyone who gets a shot. Walgreens donates toward international vaccinations efforts. The shot costs around $32 to $40 for those paying out of pocket.

Tom Charland, founder CEO of Merchant Medicine, which tracks the walking clinic industry, said drugstores are now immersed “to deliver medical services in an on-demand way.” Charland said the approach appeals to customers and particularly millennials.

Marketing might be interfering with the effectiveness of the shot because not everybody should get it before October. Elderly adults over 65 need to get their shot between Halloween and Thanksgiving so the vaccine can protect them during the peak of flu season.

A combination of factors makes it difficult for the immune system of older adults to prolong the effect of the shot till the crucial months of the flu season, and the protective effect may wear off before that period. Younger people could experience the same risk if they get the shot too soon.

Dr. Laura Haynes, an immunologist at the University of Connecticut Center on Aging, said people over 65 years old should not get the flu vaccine in September or August. In her opinion, it is a marketing scheme.

For Dr. John J. Treanor, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Rochester medical school, the data are very mixed. Some studies suggest the dose loses some protectiveness during a single flu season.

Other studies show the protection can continue even if the flu season has already ended if it is a year when the strains did not change.

In any flu season, the effectiveness of immunization varies because the predominant strain of flu virus varies as well. Studies have proved that the vaccine can reduce the risk of flu by about 50 to 60 percent when it is well-matched, as reported by the CDC.

The intensity of illness provoked by each influenza strain can vary as well, thus the vaccine, even when it does much to reduce symptoms, is not perfect. There have been 49,000 flu-related deaths in the past 31 flu seasons in the United States.

Manufacturers and scientists study which strain of the affluenza virus is circulating in the Southern Hemisphere during its winter flu season. Then, based on the evidence, they forecast what flu strains might circulate in the U.S. the following November and develop the vaccine.

Vaccines for the upcoming season will protect people against influenza A, H1N1 and H3N2, said the CDC.

Source: NPR