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Drop the needle, choose flu spray for kids, says experts

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Getting vaccinated against flu is crucial but kids particularly hate and fear getting flu shots. The brouhaha that comes with getting vaccinated against flu, however, may now be reduced as health experts have recommended that children use nasal spray flu vaccine instead.

On Wednesday, June 25, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), a panel of immunization experts that provides advice and recommendation that are often heeded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said that children between 2 and 8 years old should preferably get their flu vaccines through nasal spray as this provides better protection than the traditional shot that many children fear of.

"Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted to recommend a preference for using the nasal spray flu vaccine (i.e., LAIV) instead of the flu shot (i.e., IIV) in healthy children 2-8 years of age when it is immediately available," the CDC said in a statement.

ACIP's recommendation was based on findings of studies that suggest nasal spray flu vaccine offers better protection for children between two and eight years of age compared with flu shots. The panel's recommendation, however, said that flu shots can still be given in the absence of flu spray which could result in missed or delayed vaccination of children.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, however, is not amenable with ACIP's recommendation to give preference to nasal spray. A representative of AAP said that FluMist, the only flu vaccine spray that is available in the market, is more expensive compared with traditional vaccine shots. The nasal spray, which is composed of a live but weakened flu virus instead of a killed virus, is about $23 while shots range from $8 to $22. The pediatricians' group also raised concerns that nasal spray cannot be used by everyone and that vaccine doses for the fall flu season have already been ordered by doctors.

Michael Brady, from the Ohio State University, also said that the panel's recommendation were based on studies that were conducted when vaccination rates were much lower and flu vaccine was not as actively encouraged as today. He said that new data might show there is not much difference with flu shots and nasal spray.

AstraZeneca, which produces FluMist, said that 44 percent of children between 2 and 17 years old get Flumist for their flu vaccine. Following ACIP's vote to recommend nasal spray over flu shots, the company is making 18 million of its FluMist for the coming flu season, which is 5 million more than the 13 million it produced last year.

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