In case you missed it, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the flu nasal spray vaccine (FluMist) should not be used for the 2016-17 flu season because it doesn’t work. The CDC also recommends that everyone over 6 months of age get a flu shot instead.
In a recent report, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) says the nasal spray vaccine was shown to have poor efficacy in flu prevention over the past few seasons, especially during 2015-16 season (3 percent protection versus 60 percent protection from the injectable vaccine).
According to the report, the mist vaccine was only 3 percent effective in the 2015-16 flu season. “This 3 percent estimate means no protective benefit could be measured,” the CDC said. The nasal spray also showed poor effectiveness during the two previous seasons, the CDC said.
In 2014, that same ACIP committee recommended mist vaccines as the preferred alternative for most children between the ages 2 to 8 years old. Studies conducted from the 2006-2007 flu season indicated that the spray was more effective in children than flu shots.
What changed? There’s no smoking gun, but many experts believe the number of flu strains and the mix of strains from year to year alters the body’s response both to the flu and to the vaccine.
The decision represents a change from previous recommendations and could affect pediatricians and other vaccine providers for children who may have already placed orders for the coming season. The needle-free nasal spray accounts for about one-third of all flu vaccines given to children, according to the CDC.
The American Academy of Pediatrics supported the panel’s move. “We do understand this change will be difficult for pediatric practices who were planning to give the intranasal spray to their patients, and to patients who prefer that route of administration,” Dr. Karen Remley, CEO and executive director of the AAP said in a statement. “The AAP will be working with CDC and vaccine manufacturers to make sure pediatricians and families have access to appropriate vaccines, and to help pediatricians who have already ordered intranasal vaccines.”
Another concern is that the lack of a mist alternative will lead to fewer people getting vaccinated and increasing the risk of wider flu outbreaks. With reports that only 50 percent of Americans get vaccinated, health officials are concerned that this number will turn lower. Maryland’s Carroll County Times wrote in an editorial, “And that is exactly why you should go out of you way to get yourself and your children vaccinated before flu season begins in the fall. Fewer people getting vaccinated means there will be more carriers of the contagious virus and a better chance you’ll catch it if you also aren’t inoculated.”
The CDC recommends that every person over 6 months old get vaccinated every year. Why every year? “A flu vaccine is needed every season for two reasons. First, the body’s immune response from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccine is needed for optimal protection. Second, because flu viruses are constantly changing, the formulation of the flu vaccine is reviewed each year and sometimes updated to keep up with changing flu viruses. For the best protection, everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated annually.”