Local News

H1N1 mist vs. shot: Which is right for you?

Posted September 28, 2009 5:15 p.m. EDT
Updated November 11, 2009 11:18 a.m. EST

— A shot and a nasal spray, also known as a mist, are two ways to prevent getting the H1N1 virus. The mist could be available in North Carolina as early as next week. However, not everyone should get it.

The mist contains a mild, but live, form of the H1N1 virus, health officials said. The shot, for both H1N1 and the flu, contains a strain of the virus that is not live.

Ashley Quigley, who is due to give birth in a few weeks, said she can’t get the mist because she is pregnant. The same applies for children under 2, adults who are 50 and older and people between 2 and 49 with health problems.

The mist isn't safe for this group because it is a live virus, health officials said. The reason people 50 and older should not get the mist is that health officials said they have not tested that age group yet.

Quigley said she hasn't made a decision yet on what type of vaccine to give her other children – the shot or the spray.

“I’m just going to ask my primary care physician when we go to the appointment what they recommend,” she said.

Health officials recommend getting vaccinated for both the seasonal flu and H1N1.

Those most at risk for getting the flu are: people 65 and older, people of any age with chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant women and children under 18.

Those most at risk for getting H1N1 are: pregnant women, caregivers for infants who are 6 months old and younger, health care workers (including hospital staff, clinical staff, Emergency Medical Services technicians, firefighters and law enforcement officers), anyone under 60 years old with a weakened immune system, children under 18 and young adults who are 18 to 24.

If administered by injection, both vaccines can be given on the same day; the mists cannot. The mist should also not be taken around the same time as anti-viral medication.

“Since the flu mist is a live virus, you don’t want to take an anti-viral. That would work against the live virus vaccine,” said Judy Butler, Orange County Health Department’s community health services supervisor.

Butler said people don't need to be concerned about exposing others to the flu if they get the mist, unless a person has an extremely compromised immune system and is in a protected hospital environment.

Quigley said she is taking extra precautions, especially since she is about to have a new baby in the house.

“I’d just do everything I can to protect my kids,” she said.

North Carolina is expected to get about 3 percent of the nation's supply of H1N1 vaccines. The first shipment could contain 50,000 to 100,000 doses of mist and 500,000 to 1 million shots.