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MADISON — New flu vaccine recommendations for children might be a relief for both parents and kids who dread being poked by needles.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this year is recommending that healthy kids ages 2 to 8 get the nasal flu spray when available. The same age group needs two doses at least four weeks apart if they were not immunized against flu last year. The nasal spray protects against four strains of influenza.
“Studies have shown that the nasal flu spray is much more effective than the flu shot for children 2 to 8. It’s as much as 50 percent more effective than the shot for this particular age group,” said UW Health pediatrician Dr. Caroline Paul.
The nasal flu spray is a live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) that has been weakened so that it cannot cause the flu. It is approved for healthy people 2 to 50 years of age. Flu shots are formulated with viruses that have been inactivated, and there are a variety of formulations available for everyone over 6 months of age. Everyone over 6 months should receive some form of influenza vaccine.
Paul said that the nasal flu spray may not always be available.
“If the nasal flu spray is not available, opt for the flu shot instead,” said Paul. “You have to build up immunity and that can take up to two weeks.”
Paul said if children are seeing the doctor for well visits or another reason, they should get the flu vaccine at that time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children get the vaccine as early as possible and ideally by October.