The flu season is fast approaching. Though it seems as though last year’s flu season just ended, the time to start vaccinating against the flu for this winter is already upon us. With this, however, there comes a change for the 2016-2017 Flu vaccine recommendations. As pediatricians and parents to young children, we have enjoyed the availability of the intranasal flu vaccine, otherwise known as the FluMist, since 2003. Unfortunately, the FluMist is not being recommended for the 2016-2017 flu season. Here is why.
Since 2013, studies have shown that the FluMist has had decreasing efficacy. This means that, over the past few years, fewer and fewer cases of Influenza have been prevented in those who received the FluMist vaccine. On June 22, 2016, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted that the FluMist should not be used during the 2016-2017 flu season.
During the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 Flu seasons, the FluMist vaccine showed decreasing rates of protection against the flu in children aged 2-17 years old. Data from the 2015-2016 Flu season in the same group of children showed that the FluMist was only 3% effective. This means that, of all children aged 2-17 years old who received the FluMist vaccine, only 3% were prevented from actually coming down with the flu. This suggests that there was no preventative effect from this form of vaccination; to put it more bluntly, it was as though they had received no immunization against the flu at all. The previous two flu seasons showed decreasing rates of effectiveness of the FluMist vaccine as well, but still with some preventative effect, so the vaccine continued to be administered.
The flu shot, on the other hand, does continue to be an important way to decrease illness related to the Influenza virus, and should be received prior to the start of each flu season. During the 2015-2016 Flu season, the flu shot had an effectiveness of 63%, much better than the 3% seen with the FluMist. Continued vaccination against the Influenza virus is still recommended and is crucial to prevent complications from the Flu such as pneumonia, inflammation of the heart (myocarditis), inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), inflammation of the muscles, and most severely death.
Given the recommendations made by the ACIP, Canyon View Pediatrics will not be offering the FluMist this year. We do plan to have plenty of flu shots available to children age
6 months and older, and we have already started receiving some doses of the vaccine. Your children can receive their flu shots during any of their well child visits, sick visits, follow-up visits, or even by calling ahead and coming in for a quick immunization appointment at the vaccine clinic.