When you contact the kid’s physician to arrange a flu vaccination appointment, you’ll likely be asked whether you want her to receive a flu shot or Flumist.  My first reaction on being asked:  What’s that and what’s the difference?

Just What Is Flumist?

Flumist is a flu vaccine designed to help provide immunity against the expected flu variants.  In that regard, it’s like the standard flu injection in that it covers the exact same flu variants expected for that particular season.  It principally differs in these ways:

  • Flumist is delivered via a brief squirt up each nostril so that antibodies develop in the bloodstream and the nose, which is the most likely entry point for the flu virus.
  • Flumist is made from a weakened live virus while standard flu injections are derived from a dead virus.

Because small kids are usually terrified of needles, it’s a parental godsend.  She might still be squeamish at having to endure a squirt from some strange tube stuck up her nose but a little conversation and encouragement will help her through the process.

Flumist and Injection:  A Brief Comparison


  Flumist Injection
Delivery Mist via nasal passages Injection into arm
Virus Type Live weakened virus Dead virus
Antibodies in Bloodstream and nose Bloodstream
Minimum Age for Child Two years of age Six months of age
Vaccine effective in Two weeks* Two weeks*


* If this is the first time that your child is receiving a flu vaccination, there has to be a second administration to assure that the antibodies develop.  This follow-up won’t be necessary in subsequent years.


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