Top pediatricians indicate that parents should avoid the FluMist for their children this season, in favor of a traditional flu shot, after new research raised questions about the nasal spray vaccine’s effectiveness.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a policy statement on September 6, titled “Recommendations for Prevention and Control of Influenza in Children, 2016-2017,” indicating that all children over the age of 6 months should receive an injectable flu vaccination during the 2016 and 2017 flu season.
The release highlights new research that has found problems with FluMist effectiveness, finding that it may not provide protection against certain strains of the flu virus that were most prominent over the last three flu seasons. The data compared the nasal spray vaccinations with standard needle injected vaccinations and found that among children between the ages two and 17, only three percent of nasal spray vaccinations prevented the flu virus whereas 63% of needle injected vaccinations prevented infections.
“New research shows that the flu shot provided significantly better protection in recent flu seasons compared with the nasal spray vaccine,” co-author of the AAP statement Henry H. Bernstein, DO, MHCM, FAAP, said in an AAP press release. “We want to provide children with the best protection possible against flu, and these recent studies show the flu shot is likely to provide a higher level of protection.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) declined to recommend FluMist in June based on reports of its ineffectiveness. However, AstraZeneca, the manufacturer of FluMist, has disputed the Committee’s findings, citing a Canadian study that indicated FluMist was as effective in children as injectable vaccinations.
FluMist has become a popular vaccination choice for children in recent years, as it is easier for parents and guardians to get their children to receive, since it does not require a needle. The vaccination is a live flu virus that is sprayed up the nose. Some children are already not able to receive this vaccination, such as those with asthma or breathing complications.
Every year vaccinations are reformulated by manufacturers, in an attempt to match the previous year’s flu virus or a combination of the prior year’s circulating flu viruses. Bernstein said that the medical and manufacturing companies need to understand the influenza virus is not predictable and one strain of the virus impacting a certain geographical location could be completely different from a virus in a different area, and the only way to stay proactive against the strains is to use proven methods.
The AAP is encouraging healthcare providers to begin offering flu vaccinations no later than October to jump start the immunization period early. Given the unpredictable nature of the flu virus season, providers will be encouraged to offer flu vaccinations until June 30 to prevent late season outbreaks.
The pediatricians are also calling for a mandatory immunization of all health care personnel, claiming it to be “ethical, just, and necessary” to improve patient and hospital personnel safety. Additional suggestions from the policy statement included mandatory vaccinations for children and adolescents with medical conditions that could be further complicated by contracting the flu virus.