No Drop in Flu Vaccinations Since Nasal Spray Withdrawn

From - October 6, 2017

No Drop in Flu Vaccinations Since Nasal Spray Withdrawn

FRIDAY, Oct. 6, 2017 -- Discontinuation of the pain-free nasal spray flu vaccine has not led to a drop in childhood influenza vaccination -- at least not in Oregon.

In 2016, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's advisory committee on vaccines reported that the nasal spray vaccine (FluMist) was ineffective and advised against its use.

Doctors and health officials then feared that with only an injectable vaccine available, needle-shy parents might avoid getting their children vaccinated, said Steve Robison, who is with the Oregon Health Authority.

However, "worry that the withdrawal of the nasal spray vaccine recommendation would lead to a large drop in influenza immunization rates for children was unfounded," said Robison, who led a study on the recommendation's aftereffects.

Providers in the state immunized roughly the same number of children across the 2016-2017 influenza season as they did in previous flu seasons, Robison's team found.

The difference in the vaccines' effectiveness was due to their makeup: FluMist was a live attenuated influenza vaccine, while the flu shot contains a dead virus.

The CDC committee found that the nasal spray was only 3 percent effective in preventing flu, essentially offering no protection. By comparison, the vaccine in the flu shot is 40 to 60 percent effective in most flu seasons, according to the CDC.

The remaining vaccination strategy might come with a sting, but "parents and providers should be more concerned with the effectiveness of a vaccine than with how it is administered," Robison said.

Dr. Gloria Riefkohl is a pediatrician at Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami. She agreed that vaccine effectiveness is more important than the delivery method.

"In Florida, we see flu all year-round, so it's very important that children get their flu vaccine every year," said Riefkohl, who was not involved with the study.

She added that all other children's vaccines are given by injection, so giving the flu shot is not a significant problem.

Riefkohl's hospital quickly replaced the nasal spray with the injectable vaccine, she said. And so far she has not seen a drop off in vaccinations.

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