Flu Mist, the intra-nasal flu vaccine, is now approved for kids as young as two-years-old. I have heard a lot of doctors recommending it for kids because then the kids don't have to get a shot. There is a huge push this year from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to get the flu vaccine. So which version will you choose for your kids? Flu Mist or the shot? Or will you opt out all together?
I have a friend whose two-year-old got the Flu Mist, got a fever and nasal drainage the next day and ended up with pneumonia. Was it related? I don't know, but it sparked my interest to look into the possible side effects of kids getting Flu Mist. I am not saying getting Flu Mist for your kids is a bad decision, I just thought you might want to look at all the opinions on this big push to get it so you are making an informed decision. My friend didn't realize there was any controversy with it and her doctor never mentioned it.
Hundreds of TV and print advertisements have been designed to persuade everyone into taking the FluMist plunge. The campaign will be the "most intense, direct-to-consumer marketing campaign ever waged for a vaccine," costing an estimated $25 million over the next 2.5 months . In addition, Wyeth, MedImmune’s partner, plans a three-year, $100 million campaign to encourage use of the nasal flu vaccine among physicians.
However, there are many reasons for caution. FluMist contains live (attenuated) influenza viruses that replicate in the nasopharynx of the vaccine recipient. The most common side effects include "cough, runny nose/nasal congestion, irritability, headaches, chills, muscle aches and fever > 100° F." These symptoms are nearly identical to those the flu vaccine is designed to prevent. 
A cause for significant concern is the vaccine’s most prevalent side effects: "runny nose" and "nasal congestion." It has been documented that the live viruses from the vaccine can be shed (and potentially spread into the community) from recipient children for up to 21 days, and even longer from adults. Viral shedding also puts breastfeeding infants at risk if the mother has been given FluMist.
In addition to shedding via nasal secretions, the virus can be dispersed through sneezing. What is the normal physiological response when an irritant enters the nasal passages? A sneeze…sometimes a big sneeze…sometimes several big sneezes. Therefore, the risk for shedding–and spreading–live viruses throughout a school, church, workplace, or store — especially one which is administering the vaccine. In the section of the FlumMist package insert labeled "PRECAUTIONS," the manufacturer states the following warning:
"FluMist® recipients should avoid close contact with immunocompromised individuals for at least 21 days."
One of the most troubling concerns over the injection of this "chemical soup" is the potential for the viruses to enter directly into the brain. At the top of the nasal passages is a paper-thin bone called the cribriform plate. The olfactory nerves pass through this bone and line the nasal passages, carrying messenger molecules to the brain that are identified as "smells" familiar to us. The olfactory tract has long been recognized as a direct pathway to the brain.
Intranasal injection of certain viruses has resulted in a serious brain infection called encephalitis, presumably by direct infection of the olfactory neurons that carried the viruses to the brain. Time will tell whether the live viruses in FluMist will become linked to cases of encephalitis.
Are these claims true? I don't know, but I will be asking to see the package insert if I decide to give Flu Mist to my kids! I do know the side effects this doctor lists are true, but I don't know about her conclusions. I found the same information written by different people all over the internet. There is obviously a process the FDA goes through before allowing drugs on the market, so I might just be being an overprotective mom. Still, I will be asking my pediatrician for more details than the standard, "Flu Mist is safe because I said so."
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