Ah, flu season. That time of year when doctors, parents and blogs like these nag you to just get your flu shot already. Good news if you hate shots: this year’s annual flu shot could be a little more painless, thanks to FluMist—the nasal spray version of the flu vaccine that, after two years, has been recommended again for the coming lineup of flu vaccination options for 2018-19.
On February 21, a US Center for Disease Control and Prevention panel voted 12-2 to include, once again, FluMist as an option for the annual flu vaccine in the United States, CNN reports.
CDC spokesman Ian Branam said, 'The CDC is expected to go along with the recommendation of the committee.'
Why the Decision to Allow FluMist Again?
So why has the CDC’s advisory panel returned to team FluMist? A short history lesson from CNN:
“MedImmune, a subsidiary of London-based AstraZeneca PLC, produces FluMist, which was first approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2003. By all accounts, it worked well in the early years. However, a 2015-16 influenza vaccine effectiveness study found FluMist to be overall 46% effective—with zero effectiveness against one strain of flu—compared with the flu shot's overall 65% effectiveness. Beginning with the 2016-17 season, then, the ACIP decided to not recommend the spray because of its poor performance compared with the flu shot....Before the vote on February 21, the committee 'heard data from the vaccine manufacturer about a possible root cause of poor effectiveness against the influenza A H1N1 virus in the past and a potential solution to address this.' This solution includes using a different type of influenza A H1N1 virus in the vaccine."
A US pediatric study from AstraZeneca showed that the H1N1 strain in the 2017-18 [FluMist] vaccine 'performed significantly better' than the H1N1 strain in the 2015-16 vaccine.
Moving on from history for the day, let's shimmy on to Flu 101 to talk next steps.
Remind Us: When Is Flu Season?
The CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October, if possible. And if not October, as soon as possible—getting the shot at any point during flu season, even if late, can still be beneficial; vaccinations should be offered into January or later. Children who need two doses of the vaccine should start the process even sooner, as doses are given at least four weeks apart, according to the CDC.
Know that, after you get the shot, it takes about two weeks for the antibodies that protect against the flu to develop in the body. The sooner the better. If everyone in their respective communities gets the shot as early as possible, we can all play a part in preventing the flu from spreading like the virus that it is.
Worthy of note: this year's 2017-18 seasonal flu shot has been just 36% effective against both A and B virus strains, the CDC estimated in a midseason report. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar likens it to the first thing we should all do when we get into our cars for a drive: "Getting the flu shot is the same kind of sensible precaution as buckling your seat belt. If you got the flu shot but you end up catching the flu, it could be less severe and less likely to land you in the hospital.”
FluMist vs. Flu Shot: Which Should You Choose?
As opposed to the flu shot, an inactivated influenza vaccine, FluMist is a live attenuated influenza vaccine. CNN shares:
Though the viruses in FluMist are live, they have been weakened (attenuated, in medical terms) and work by stimulating the immune system.
FluMist is popular among needle-haters, and unsurprisingly, that includes most children. So if it comes down to just getting your child in the doctor’s office, consider FluMist this coming flu season.
Other sources have helped to outline additional FAQ you may have regarding the FluMist vaccine.
Shameless Plug: Get Your Flu Vaccine This Year
Getting the flu vaccine is easy, and it’s offered at more providers than you think, at places such as*:
- Local pharmacies
- Pharmacies in drug stores (CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens)
- Pharmacies in big-box chain stores (Target, Walmart, Sam’s Club)
- Pharmacies in grocery stores
- Primary care physicians
- Urgent care centers
And to make it even easier, check out this handy-dandy flu vaccine finder from the CDC.
Most insurance plans will cover the flu vaccine at little to no cost. Check back closer to flu season for the list of FDA-approved influenza vaccines for 2018-19—likely including FluMist—pending annual strain approval. For more, read the coverage on CNN.