FluMist nasal spray poised for a return
FluMist, the nasal flu vaccine pulled two years ago, is poised to make a comeback when flu season resumes in October.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which provides advice and guidelines of vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States, voted to recommend placing the nasal spray on the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention’s list of recommended vaccines.
The catch, however, is that flu vaccines are usually manufactured six months before flu season hits so its not known how much of an impact this will have. Influenza kills about 36,000 people a year on average, according to the CDC. So far, the virus has been a contributing factor in the deaths of 135 people in Pennsylvania, including 17 in Allegheny County.
Flu shots do not contain the flu virus. The nasal vaccine, however, does contain a weakened version of the flu. FluMist was pulled two years ago because there was a question about its effectiveness.
The idea behind the nasal vaccine is that the body will launch an immune response to fight the flu virus, which has been diluted to the point that it will not cause an infection. If FluMist was available, then more needle-phobic people and children might get vaccinated, doctors said.
“Other countries use FluMist,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a Pittsburgh physician who is an infectious disease expert for the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “We want to have as many options as possible.”
Dr. Joseph Aracri, chairof pediatrics at Allegheny Health Network, said he saw 25 to 30 percent less children get a flu vaccination when FluMist was taken out of rotation.
“FluMist has ease of delivery and is a fine mist,” Aracri said. “It has been effective in the past.”