The chances are good there will be no nasal spray flu vaccine this coming flu season.
The reason? The spray doesn’t seem to work as well as flu shots.
Data has shown that the nasal spray was only effective in preventing the flu, this past flu season, in about 3 percent of the children 2 – 17 years old who received it. Flu shots, on the other hand, were 63 percent effective. This follows two previous seasons (2013-2014 and 2014-2015) where poor and/or lower than expected effectiveness was reported for the nasal spray flu vaccine.
So, the Centers for Disease Control’s immunization advisory committee has recommended that the spray, technically called the “live attenuated influenza vaccine” and sold as FluMist Quadrivalent, not be used in 2016-2017. The CDC’s Director has the final say, but it would be unusual for him to overrule the committee’s recommendation.
The effectiveness of the flu vaccine can vary widely from season to season. It can be affected by a number of factors, including characteristics of the person being vaccinated, the similarity between the viruses in the vaccine and the viruses that are actually circulating and which form of vaccine is used by a patient.
The spray uses a live virus
The nasal spray flu vaccine uses live, weakened influenza viruses. Flu shots contain viruses that are either inactive or are genetically engineered. When it was first approved it was believed that the live vaccine was as good as, or better than, the inactive vaccines. It’s not known why it hasn’t been true.
Vaccine manufacturers have projected as many as 176 million doses of flu vaccine, in all forms, will be available for this winter’s flu season. About 14 million doses, or about 8 percent, were expected to be the nasal spray vaccine. The recommendation not to use the spray may particularly affect children, since it’s believed the spray vaccine accounts for about one-third of all flu vaccines that kids receive.
FluMist Quadrivalent is produced by MedImmune. Currently, it’s the only non-injection-based flu vaccine on the market.