Yeah, okay, it’s not time to freak out. You should never freak out. In fact, the first rule of emergencies is to stay calm. So stay calm.
The “Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine” (LAIV) sold under the trademark FluMist in the United States seems to be in short supply. But this is the case right now and won’t be by the end of the year. There seems to have been some issues in the manufacturing of the vaccine, and it will be sorted out by December, from what I hear.
Unfortunately, recent evidence indicates that LAIV is the most effective influenza vaccine for children, and a lot of flu clinics use it for children because it doesn’t involve a needle. You see, children have a bit of a phobia of needles, so giving them the flu vaccine without a needle is a win-win situation. You immunize them and you get them to come back for immunization against a deadly pathogen year after year because it doesn’t hurt.
So what do we do now? Do we wait until enough LAIV is available at the end of the year? Or do we just go ahead and use the injected (inactivated virus) vaccine?
The answer, like so many answers in public health, is “it depends.”
Whether or not to wait for the LAIV in December or get the injectable one now is a conversation that parents need to have with their healthcare providers. While there is some evidence that the injectable vaccine is not as effective in children as the LAIV, it is still better than nothing, and flu season is upon us. Kids with certain health conditions, like asthma, need to be immune to by the time the season is in full swing (in the colder months here in the United States), and it can take several weeks for the immunity to kick in after a vaccine.
Like too many things in life, we have a situation where parents — and adults looking to get the vaccine — need to weigh the pros and cons of waiting for one vaccine or taking the other. And that decision is not one that you should be deciding upon with me or any other blogger’s information. Talk to a healthcare provider, then decide.
But, please, don’t panic.
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
About History of Vaccines: I am the editor of the History of Vaccines site, a project of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Please read the About page on the site for more information.
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