Trish Yerges
The La Grande Observer

Parents are getting their kids immunized against the flu despite the fact that the nasal injected FluMist is out and the needles are back.

“Our original concern was that the live attenuated influenza vaccine, FluMist, had a unique appeal as it wasn’t a shot, and we were worried that its withdrawal would spark a substantial decrease in influenza immunization for children,” said Jonathan Modie, communications officer at Oregon Health Authority.

Last June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially recommended the removal of FluMist intranasal administered vaccine.

“It was removed due to strong evidence that it provided a lower level of protection against influenza disease than the injectable influenza immunization,” Modie said. “This evidence was based on U.S. national influenza disease surveillance from several influenza seasons.”

The question was would children who preferred a non-needle vaccine get a standard flu shot the next time around.

Modie said that it appears parents are more concerned about how effective the vaccine is than how it is delivered.

According to an Oregon Health Authority study recently published in the medical journal Pediatrics and co-authored by researchers at OHA’s Oregon Immunization Program, the influenza vaccination rates for Oregon children were the same before and after the withdrawal of the FluMist.

“Our study looked at whether the withdrawal of the live attenuated influenza virus recommendation led to lower childhood influenza immunization rates in the 2016-17 influenza season in Oregon,” said Steve Robison, epidemiologist with the Oregon Immunization Program.

Overall, Oregon flu vaccination rates for children were the same in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, despite the lack of FluMist, the Oregon Health Authority reported. The Center for Human Development in La Grande did not have local data gathered at the time of this article.

An OHA press release stated that children who had previously received the nasal spray vaccine were only slightly less likely to return for an injectable influenza immunization during the 2016-17 influenza season.

Using Oregon’s ALERT Immunization Information System, a statewide registry that collects immunization data from public and private health care providers, the researchers found that children ages 2 to 10 who had received FluMist were only 3 percent less likely to get an injectable influenza immunization in 2016-17, while those ages 11 to 17 were 7 percent less likely to get an injectable vaccine.

During the 2017-18 season, vaccine flu brands including Fluzone, Flulaval and Fluarix will be administered. For children, the Oregon Health Authority supplies quadrivalent vaccines, meaning the vaccine protects against four strains of virus.

For those who can get the vaccine, the CDC recommends it for everyone older than 6 months.

 See complete story in Monday's Observer