November 19th, 2009
12:33 PM ET

Nasal vaccine for 14-month-old?

As a feature of CNNhealth.com, our team of expert doctors will answer readers' questions. Here's a question for Dr. Gupta.

From Elaine in New Jersey:

I attended a clinic this weekend for the H1N1 shots, and they administered the nasal spray to my 14-month-old! According to the CDC website it should NOT be administered to children under 2 years of age! I contacted the pharmacy where the clinic was held, and they took my contact info and said we will get back to me. Can you tell me is my child at risk?? I also have a call into my pediatrician. I also contact the CDC and was told they are not medical professionals.


Elaine, it is easy to sense dismay and concern from your e-mail, and as a father I can certainly relate.

The reality is – yes – the nasal spray version of the H1N1 vaccine, which contains a weakened live flu virus, should be given only to people ages 2 to 49. We also know that children with conditions such as asthma may not be eligible for the live flu vaccine.

In order to ease your mind a bit, unless he or she has asthma, chances are very good that your 14-month-old will be fine.

The primary reason children younger than 2 do not get the nasal spray H1N1 vaccine is that it has not been tested in, and therefore is not licensed for, that age group. It is that simple. You need solid data to submit to the Food and Drug Administration before a medication can be approved for use in a particular population – that data do not exist for children younger than 24 months.

To ease your mind a bit more, rare complaints among adults and children taking the nasal spray form of the H1N1 vaccine are runny nose, sore throat, and sometimes fever. These symptoms usually go away within a couple of days. If they do crop up for your 14-month-old, you should not be too concerned, but if the symptoms get worse or your instinct tells you to, do see your pediatrician.

On the bright side of your predicament, your son or daughter is now vaccinated against H1N1. There are many parents who are still waiting to have their children vaccinated, so count yourself among the fortunate. Your child should soon have a second H1N1 vaccine dose – this time with the injectable form of the vaccine. And if you have not yet been vaccinated, you should do so – as the caregiver for your baby, you are eligible for these early doses of vaccine.

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.