Influenza vaccination researchers are debuting a new solution this year aimed at helping needle phobic children stay happy and healthy as flu season approaches. Although nasal spray influenza vaccines have been available for over a decade in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now stating a preference for the FluMist® version over the traditional shot for certain groups of children. According to the CDC, the prime defense against the seasonal flu virus is vaccination, whether by needle or nasal spray. With the yearly cycle of high risk approaching, doctors and health agencies are exhorting the benefits of influenza vaccination, impressing on parents the importance of getting the vaccine early so it has time to kick in before the risk of exposure begins to climb.
Influenza infections generally spike from December through March each year although the window of risk runs from October to May. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Dr. Paul Offit told CBS News that 100 or more children in the U.S. died from influenza in 2013 and most of them were not vaccinated. Young children are at the greatest risk of influenza infection. Those under five years of age have a significantly higher prospect of developing severe complications.
As the supply of the 2014-2015 FluMist® vaccinations makes its way to health care providers in time for the debut of flu season in October, the CDC reports that research indicates that the nasal spray influenza vaccine is a more effective way to keep children ages two to eight years old healthy than the traditional shot. Their results show the prevention rate for the nasal spray was about 50 percent greater than the flu shot in thwarting infection. They recommend that children ages two through eight receive the FluMist® vaccine whenever available. However, they urge parents not to wait if the spray is not available but to take advantage of the protection of the flu shot as soon as possible to safeguard the children’s health.
The CDC does indicate some exceptions to their recommendation for children taking aspirin products, those allergic to eggs, prone to asthma or wheezing or who have an impaired immune system. The nasal spray is also contraindicated for children on antiviral medication for influenza. Parents of children with chronic health conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes, should check with their health care provider regarding the safety of the nasal spray vaccine in conjunction with their ongoing treatment. As children under two are too young for the nasal spray treatment, doctors advise that parents have younger children get the flu shot. Any healthy person from age two to 59 that is not pregnant can get the FluMist® vaccine.
The 2014-2015 influenza vaccination cocktail is a quadrivalent, meaning it protects against four different strains of flu as opposed to the shot which guards against three. The FluMist® contains live vaccine against two influenza A strains, H1N1 and H3N2 as well as two B strains. Patients with minor illnesses, such as diarrhea or a mild respiratory infection can still receive the nasal spray vaccination as long as they do not have any nasal congestion to recommend waiting. Side effects may mimic mild flu symptoms such as runny nose, fever, headache, muscle ache, vomiting or wheezing but are not a true influenza infection, explains the CDC. Most insurance companies and Medicare will cover the cost.
The CDC suggests that children who are given the newest influenza vaccination lower the risk of potential infection. Either method, nasal spray or needle injection will keep children healthy. The earlier the immunizations are administered, the better the chance the child has of being protected in case of exposure, as the full protection can take up to two weeks to rev up to full power. Health care providers are encouraged to vaccinate as many people as possible by October before the debut of flu season. Additionally, families with infants and young toddlers are encouraged to be immunized as well, as research shows this reduces the risk of spreading infection to the vulnerable and unprotected little ones. CDC director, Dr. Tom Frieden urges families to act quickly to seek influenza vaccination and not wait until it starts spreading to pursue protection
by Tamara Christine Van Hooser
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