FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --Fresno Kaiser Permanente pediatrician, Dr. Casey Gray, spends part of each checkup making sure his patients and their parents know about preventing illness. But now he's spending even more time convincing some families to get the flu shot, because the less painful alternative won't be offered at the medical center this flu season.
"A lot of kids would much rather receive a squirt for their nose than a shot in the arm, and yet this is the year we're taking that away. And there's really good reason for it."
In June, the Centers for Disease Control's advisory committee voted, the nasal flu vaccine should not be used for the 2016 to 2017 flu season. This is based on studies of previous years, the advisory committee found a startling difference between the effectiveness of the nasal spray vaccine versus the injection.
"They found that only roughly three-percent of children who received the flu mist were truly protected from the flu. And that's opposed to flu injection that protects roughly 60-ish percent of people who receive it," said Dr. Gray. "It's a weakened virus that's delivered through the nose, obviously, and there's some thought that that may have something to do with why it's not as effective as the injectable vaccine."
Based on the CDC findings, Kaiser made a major change in its flu vaccine program for this year. The medical center won't have any Flu Mist, the most widely-used brand, in stock. Kaiser members will be offered only the shot.
"When the evidence shows something is or isn't effective, we take that to heart," said Dr. Gray.
The Flu Mist was also an option for patients who have an egg allergy because the vaccine in the injection is cultured in chicken eggs. But unless the patient has an extreme allergy, Dr. Gray said the injection can still be safely given to patients with a mild to moderate egg allergy.
"If a child, or an adult, has a significant severe reaction to eggs, you should talk to your doctor or even your allergist about if it's safe to receive the flu vaccine. But for minor reactions, we are absolutely giving the flu vaccine to them."
Myra Saporta of Fresno will still get her children vaccinated, even though they dread the shot.
"They don't like it, they get scared, but it's faster, I think. It was a doctor recommendation as well."
And eight-year-old Ethan knows, a shot is better than sickness.
"I think maybe it gets rid of the bacteria-- thingy."
That thingy, according to the CDC, causes millions of illnesses and thousands of deaths each year. So many doctors are pushing for the prevention that's worth the pain.