NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – For the first time, government health officials are recommending FluMist nasal spray as the preferred vaccine for healthy children between the ages of 2 and 8 years old.

As CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported, the vaccine is made with a weakened version of the live virus.

“It induces a better response in the upper respiratory tract and the data for young children are it’s a better vaccine in that age group,” Dr. Paul Offit said.

Despite warnings about how serious and deadly the flu can be, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds only about half of Americans were vaccinated last year.

Although the respiratory virus, eneterovirus D-68, has been dominating the headlines, Dr. Sherlita Amler with the Westchester Department of Health said parents should be more concerned with the flu.

“Everyone six months and older, now is a great time to get vaccinated,” Dr. Tom Frieden with the CDC said.

About 150 million doses of flu vaccine are expected to be available this season; about half of those will protect against four strains of the flu virus, rather than the usual three.

All of the nasal spray vaccines this year offer four-strain protection.

“Most children will not have any reactions, but occasionally children with the live vaccine can have signs of a cold for a couple of days,” Dr. Sylvain Weinberger said.

Cole Eggers mother, Carol Newell, makes sure her son is vaccinated every year.

“It keeps you safe, it keeps other people around you safe,” she said.

Last year, more than 100 children died of the flu and about half were normal, healthy kids. But 90 percent had not gotten their flu shot.

So, if the nasal spray isn’t immediately available, don’t wait to get your children vaccinated because the shot does offer protection as well, Gomez advised.

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