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CDC Studies Effects of Nasal Spray Flu Vaccine Over Traditional Shot for Children

Victoria Rusinov administers FluMist to a child at the Control Flu clinic at Littlewood Elementary School.
Victoria Rusinov administers FluMist to a child at the Control Flu clinic at Littlewood Elementary School.

A nasal spray form of the flu vaccine is more effective than the flu shot in healthy children ages 2 to 8, recent studies suggest.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “the nasal spray flu vaccine prevented about 50 percent more cases of flu than the flu shot in younger children."

UF Health Shands pediatrician Kathleen Ryan, M.D., said FluMist(the name of the nasal spray flu vaccine) contains a live virus, whereas the shot contains killed viruses. However, the virus is weak and cannot cause the flu, according to the CDC website.

Ryan said the flu virus enters the body through the nose, which is why FluMist is more effective in preventing the virus from actually entering the nose and growing.

“No one knows for sure, but most likely FluMist is more effective for younger people because as you get older, you’ve been affected with so many viruses throughout your life,” Ryan said. “You’ve been around longer, so immunity in the nose limits the effectiveness of the vaccine."

She said there is good evidence FluMist is more effective for children and people older than 8-years-old, but the CDC did not feel it had been studied enough to make an official recommendation.

Ryan is also the medical coordinator for Control Flu, a program that aims to provide free FluMist vaccinations to pre-K through 12th grade Alachua County students.

“We do this by immunizing school children because school children are known to be the super spreaders of flu and often bring flu into the community,” Ryan said.

Each flu season Control Flu administers FluMist to children in the public schools who have returned signed consent forms from their parents.  If they have asthma, chronic heart disease or other chronic conditions, they are ineligible to receive FluMist.

University of Florida nursing senior Victoria Rusinova said this year she got the nasal spray flu vaccination for the first time. Rusinova said she preferred it just as well as the shot, but she liked that there was no soreness that usually comes from a shot.

“I wanted to get FluMist in order to be more immersed in this initiative,” said Rusinova, who administered FluMist for Control Flu’s elementary school clinics. “And to be on the receiving side as well as giving side.”

This year, Control Flu held clinics at UF for the first time.

“We’re hoping to get a good response,” said April Wu, Control Flu program coordinator. “We’re thinking there are UF students who are unaware of the vaccinations available to them.”

Ryan said there has been less flu in Alachua County than in surrounding communities because more people are vaccinated through the Control Flu program. She said she thinks we will always have the flu shot because there are age restrictions for FluMist and some people who are ineligible to receive it.

“But for healthy people that don’t have any illnesses, over time the FluMist might become more popular over the shot," Ryan said.

Kai is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing