It’s flu season and I wanted to post on the community page and share what I’ve learned about the Influenza vaccine, the difference between the shot and the mist and some variables that may influence which you may choose for your family.
My motivation is myself becoming one of the millions immuncompromised in this country, learning about the vaccines and how they can affect my health, and also learning that patients are sometimes not told that their choice can affect the health of the people around them. Keep in mind, I’m not a healthcare professional and I’m still learning. I also know as a parent, every parent’s goal is to have a healthy and happy child and for many parents, part of that is getting the annual flu vaccine. We all want healthy kiddos.
First thing is first, the influenza shot is a an inactivated virus vaccine. It does not shed, meaning the recipient can’t sicken those around them. The FluMist is a Live Attenuated Vaccine, meaning the recipient can shed and can sicken the immunocompromised around them. It is approved for people ages 2-49 years old. When I attend events with large amounts of children, I wear a mask and gloves to protect myself. While this is not scientific at all, the two times I did not wear a mask and gloves I became sick afterwards. I do know the first time I sat next to a sweet little girl and helped her with her projects and she had recently received the FluMist vaccine, the second time was a large event with 500 children and God knows what was floating around.
How many immunocompromised are there in the United States? Well, we don’t know. In 2008 there were over 10,000,000 immunocompromised, but that only included HIV/AIDS patients, cancer patients, and organ transplant recipients. However, the immunocompomised also includes anyone with an autoimnune disorder, anyone with rheumatoid arthritis, anyone on steroids, and the undernourished and I’m certain I’m forgetting some. The number of immunocrompromised people is much higher than 10,000,000. Everyone of us know at least one person that’s on this list. I’m personally annoyed by this well known in the medical community but not well told to the Average Joe fact. It reads very clearly on my prescription pamphlet to avoid any contact with a person that’s received a live virus vaccine (FluMist and polio ).
The downside is there appears to be a slightly better efficacy rate with the FluMist over the injection. However, ( just my perspective ) given how many immunocompromised we have among us, am urging people to really research both options before you choose and then ultimately make the best choice for your family. Overwhelmingly, when a healthy person gets the flu, they are sick for a week and fully recover. That outcome is very different for the immunocompromised. This also means if your little one has recently received a FluMist vaccine and they’re attending a Halloween party or birthday party, asking the host if she’s aware if there any immucompromised children in attendance. The parent of a highly asthmatic child may want to know and choose to keep her child home. It means holding off on visiting Grandma if she’s getting over a significant illness. You would think if an immunocompromised person simply gets the flu shot, it negates the need to restrict contact with FluMist recipients, however my doctor says that’s not the case, further complicating the issue.
That’s my public service announcement. Ultimately, the message is to do your own research and make a choice that works for your family. The CDC has some great information. I’ll attach some links in the comments.