For the past two years, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has advised against getting the nasal spray version of the flu vaccine, but now the public health organization says go for it. According to CDC’s website, the nasal spray is again recommended for anyone not pregnant, over the age of two, and under the age of 49 without certain pre-existing health conditions, such as asthma, allergies to previous vaccines, suppressed immune systems, and heart and lung disorders. The Chicago Tribune reports that the nasal version of the flu vaccine hasn’t been super effective at warding of a specific flu strain — H1N1 — for the past few seasons, but it’s expected to work better this year.
Consumer Reports notes that while the nasal flu vaccine spray is back on the CDC’s list of recommended vaccines for 2018 through 2019, it’s not the first choice for children, per the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The AAP is concerned about whether or not the new nasal spray will be effective this season, and recommends it only for children who are especially afraid of needles. That said, the flu vaccine nasal spray is OK’d by the CDC, who doesn’t recommend one version of the vaccine over the other at this point, Consumer Reports further notes.
The CDC further reports that the effectiveness of the flu vaccine can change from year to year, because the virus can be hard to predict. TIME also notes that making effective flu vaccines can be more difficult than consumers sometimes realize. Given that different flu strains show up each year, and some risk groups are affected more than others — regionally and age wise — creating an effective flu vaccine can be a challenge for researchers.
That said, the CDC states that, according to their data, the new nasal spray flu vaccine is expected to be more effective against the H1N1 flu strain this year. The CDC further suggests that a dose of the flu vaccine be taken once per flu season. The nasal spray containing the live, attenuated flu vaccine (meaning that, the virus is live, but weakened so as not to cause the flu) is sprayed directly into the nose, where it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to take full effect. The CDC recommends that flu vaccines be taken before the end of October for full protection.
According to NBC, even though flu vaccines can potentially cause some mild side effects, like a runny nose, cough, body aches, or a sore throat, the nasal spray will not cause the flu. Given that last year’s flu season was so bad, public health officials are recommending that everyone get a version of the flu vaccine this year. If you have any allergies or underlying medical conditions, make sure to check in with your doctor to determine which vaccines are safe for you this year. But, at the end of the day, anyone who is able to get the vaccine, in any form, should.
"The flu is so common now that most people view it more as a nuisance than a dangerous virus, but in reality, hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized every year for flu-related causes, with many cases proving fatal," Alec Ginsberg, C.O. Bigelow Apothecaries pharmacist, tells Bustle. "Aside from protecting yourself, getting the flu shot protects your entire community; friends, family, coworkers, kids, and anyone who comes into contact with you. The symptoms can be brutal and keep you in bed for days, and the virus is highly contagious even before symptoms show, so you can pass it on before you’re aware you’re infected. The more people that get vaccinated, the less opportunity the virus has to circulate."