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Roll Up Your Sleeve: FluMist Vaccine Doesn’t Work

Monday, October 03, 2016 10:22 AM

Kids will be rolling up their sleeves for flu shots this season. That’s because U.S. health officials say the nasal flu vaccine – marketed as FluMist – has not been doing its job. The easy-to-use nasal spray’s effectiveness among children ages 2 to 17 was 3 percent last year; the injected vaccine had an effectiveness rate of 63 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although shots – or even the thought of them - can elicit tears, parents shouldn’t let that stop them from bringing their kids in for the flu vaccine, said NorthShore pediatrician Dr. Sharon Robinson.  Here, she answers questions about the flu vaccine and offers tips for calming little nerves.

Is there a best time to get the flu shot?
The best time to get the flu shot is as early as possible.  We typically receive the vaccine in the beginning of September.  Receiving your immunization early will still provide you with enough coverage to last the entire flu season.  

How can parents make a shot easier for a child?
Tightened muscles can cause pain when the shot is given, so have your child relax his arm muscles by dropping his arm so it hangs loosely at his side. Distractions are great at doing their job – distracting from the shot! A new toy, talking to your child or even blowing bubbles can work wonders. Be honest when your child asks if it will hurt. Tell her it may hurt but only for a moment.

Who should get vaccinated?
Everyone over the age of six months can and should be vaccinated against the flu each year, especially children under five, people over 65 and those with compromised immune systems because they are at high risk for serious flu-related complications.

When is the flu season?
Every flu season is different but there’s one thing you can count on: there will be one.  Flu season in the U.S. can begin as early as October and continue into late May.

Can you get the flu from the flu shot?
You cannot get the flu from the flu shot. The injected vaccine is not a live virus. (The nasal spray vaccine is live, by the way.) It takes two weeks for the vaccine to become effective. So if you are exposed to flu in those two weeks, that is probably how you got the flu.