Does It Matter If I Get A Flu Shot Or The Nasal Spray Vaccine?

Dr. James Conway answers the question: 'Flu Shot Or Nasal Spray Vaccine?'

ByJames Conway, M.D., Assoc. Professor of Pediatrics, Univ. of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health
September 25, 2008, 10:05 AM

— -- Question: Does it matter if I get a flu shot or the nasal spray vaccine?

Answer: In the United States, we've traditionally had the availability of injectable influenza vaccine and there are many different versions of that on the market from many different companies. And that really has the longest track record. It causes good immunity and is very protective for most people. It's the safest one for people that have a poor immune system since it is a killed vaccine with no live virus.

The other newer vaccine is currently approved in children age two all the way up to adults aged 49 and is primarily for people that are healthy. It's a live viral vaccine, so we're hesitant to give it to people who have major immune-compromised situations. It does seem to be, for healthy people, slightly better as far as the duration and quality of the immunity. What that means is that in years when the flu vaccine choices are not quite accurate and there is drifting or shifting of the strains that are circulating, it seems to offer slightly better protection with cross-protection compared to the injectable vaccine.

Again for healthy people, both of them are great choices. The nasal flu vaccine has the benefit of not having a needle or an injection. For very young infants, being 6 months to two years of age, and the elderly, people over 50 years of age, or people with poor immune systems, the injectable vaccine is really the only and best choice for them. And we encourage all of them to get their vaccine as soon as possible and as early as possible in the season.

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