FOR YOUR HEALTH - Which is better: Flu shot or nasal spray vaccine?

By | USAPHC | October 23, 2013

Story by: Sgt. Terence Ellis and Zachary McCormic, USAPHC

Each year, the influenza or "flu" virus makes millions of people ill worldwide. Children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems are at highest risk of developing flu-related complications that can lead to hospitalization or even death.

The best way to prevent the flu is by receiving an annual influenza vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone over the age of 6 months get vaccinated against influenza.

There are two primary types of influenza vaccine – the flu shot and the nasal spray. The flu shot comes in several different forms that target a variety of age groups, from 6 months and older. All forms of the flu shot contain inactivated or killed virus and are administered as an injection in the upper arm or in the thigh for infants. Your health care provider will determine which form is right for you based on age, allergies and health conditions.

The nasal spray vaccine, or the live, attenuated influenza vaccine, is commonly known by its trade name, "FluMist," and offers protection to healthy people, from 2 to 49 years old, and adults who are not pregnant. The FluMist contains a live, but weakened flu virus that cannot cause flu illness.

Studies comparing the flu shot to the nasal vaccine have shown the shot or inactivated vaccine to be more effective in protecting against influenza A in healthy adults. Both vaccinations were more effective in preventing influenza than those receiving no vaccine. However, studies conducted in children have found the nasal spray or attenuated vaccine more effective in preventing influenza than the shot.

The influenza vaccination for the 2013 to 2014 influenza season protects against the strains of the virus influenza experts believe are most likely to circulate during the season.

Before any influenza cases develop, get the flu vaccine. It may take up to two weeks to develop complete protection against influenza after vaccination. Vaccinating people at high-risk for serious flu-related health complications and their close contacts is especially important.

A person should talk to a health care provider to see if he or she fits into the high-risk category or if he or she has any questions regarding which flu vaccine options are best for them and their Family.