Federal health experts recommend that FluMist not be used this coming flu season, indicating that it quite simply does not work.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted on June 22 that live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV), known by the brand name FluMist, should not be used during the 2016-2017 flu season. The decision came in the wake of data suggesting the nasal flu vaccine spray had poor effectiveness.
According to data from the last flu season, FluMist effectiveness among children from ages 2 to 17 showed only a three percent effectiveness. That compares to a 63% effectiveness rate for influenza inactivated vaccines (IIVs), traditional flu shots.
The vote raises questions about the supply of 14 million doses of nasal spray flu vaccines, which represent about eight percent of the nation’s projected flu vaccine supply. AstraZeneca’s FluMist is the only nasal spray vaccine on the market.
FluMist was approved by the FDA in 2003 for sale by MedImmune, an AstraZeneca subsidiary. It comes in two forms; a trivalent version that is supposed to protect against three flu strains, and a quadrivalent version that is supposed to protect against four strains. It is widely popular among parents who want to avoid having their young children cry or worry about receiving the flu shot.
Previous data had suggested that FluMist actually worked better than the shot for children under the age of eight. According to the CDC, about one-third of flu vaccines administered to children were given via FluMist.
The science behind flu vaccines can be complex, and some experts wonder if there was something particular about the flu strains chosen this year, or the manufacturing process, which made the FluMist ineffective over the last flu season. The decision not to use FluMist can be reversed if an increase in effectiveness or answers to those questions are found.
The CDC is expected to issue final recommendations in late summer or early fall through its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The flu impacts children and the elderly the hardest each year, killing between 4,000 and 50,000 people annually in the U.S.
The CDC recommends an annual influenza vaccination for everyone ages six months and older.