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Nasal Vaccine Offers Protection Against Flu

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Flu season typically runs from December through May. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to become effective.

The peak of the season is often in February, but last year, there were a significant number of cases in December. The good news is there is still vaccine available for those who qualify.

In a typical year, more than 100,000 people nationwide are hospitalized with influenza and 35,000 die from it. Because of a vaccine shortage this year, far fewer people may be protected.

"We would expect we'd see more people hospitalized, and potentially, more deaths," said Dr. David Weber, a UNC epidemiologist.

Weber said those who are considered


can still get the injectable vaccine. Another option is the inhaled



Because it is a live vaccine, FluMist is available only to healthy people between the ages of 5 to 49. It is not available to pregnant women or those people with a weak immune system.

Unlike the injectable inactivated form of the vaccine, the FluMist is stored frozen.

"The FluMist is a live attenuated vaccine, meaning the virus only replicates in the upper airways. It can't infect the lower lungs," Weber said.

The vaccine is sprayed into each nostril.

"You may get a little nasal stuffiness for the next day or two. That should be the only side effect," Weber warned.

Weber said the injectable vaccine and the FluMist nasal vaccine provide comparable protection. In an average year, both provide 70- to 90-percent protection, particularly against severe disease.


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