What is the Nasal Flu Vaccine FluMist?

On June 21st, 2016, the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices advised against the use of Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine (LAIV), commonly known as FluMist, for the 2016-2017 flu season. The vote was based on evidence over the previous few flu seasons showing that the nasal spray vaccine was much less effective than the injected vaccine - which is made with killed influenza virus rather than the weakened (attenuated) influenza virus that is included in the nasal spray vaccine. Complete recommendations and guidelines for influenza vaccination are published in the MMWR prior to the start of flu season. 

On June 22nd, 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement endorsing this recommendation. 

This change will present significant challenges for providers and parents, who may be reluctant to add another shot to their child's office visits. However, flu vaccination remains the best way to protect yourself and your family against the flu.

The nasal flu vaccine, most commonly referred to as Flumist, can be a great option for people who would like a flu shot. It is good for healthy adults and adolescents when there is a shortage of the traditional, injected vaccine or if you just prefer a nasal spray flu vaccine over an injection.

FluMist is approved for healthy people ages 2 to 49 with no significant medical problems.

People who should not take nasal flu vaccine include:

  • Children under 2 years old
  • Adults 50 years or older
  • Anyone with asthma, reactive airway disease (RAD) or a history of recurrent wheezing
  • Anyone with chronic health conditions
  • People with weakened immune systems
  • Those who care for people with severely compromised immune systems (such as someone who has recently had a hematopoietic stem cell transplant)
  • Pregnant women
  • Anyone with a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • Children or adolescents taking aspirin

You should be aware of some differences between the nasal flu vaccine and the traditional, injected flu vaccine.

Injected Vaccine

The injected flu vaccine is made from a killed influenza virus and does not cause flu symptoms. The most common side effects from the injected vaccine are soreness at the injection site and feeling tired.

FluMist, Nasal Flu Vaccine

The nasal flu vaccine is made from several different types of weakened live influenza viruses. People vaccinated with this type of vaccine are more likely to have minor flu-like symptoms. You may experience a slight fever, tiredness or achiness, and possible minor upper respiratory problems. These side effects should disappear within a few days.

If you have a child under the age of 9 who will be getting the nasal flu vaccine this year and it is the first time he has had a flu vaccination of any kind (or if last year was his first flu vaccination, but he only received one dose), he will have to have two vaccinations this year. The vaccinations must be given at least six weeks apart.

If you feel like the nasal flu vaccine may be right for you, talk to your doctor about getting it this flu season.

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Article Sources

  • AAP Supports ACIP Recommendation for Use of Inactivated Flu Vaccine". AAP Press Room. 22 Jun 16. American Academy of Pediatrics. 24 Jun 16. 
  • Questions & Answers: The Nasal-Spray Flu Vaccine (Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine [LAIV])." Seasonal Flu 19 Sep 07. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Coordinating Center for Infectious Diseases. 27 Sep 07.