San Francisco Chronicle

Flu spray fails anew, panel says


NEW YORK — The nasal spray version of the annual flu vaccine failed to protect kids again last year, the latest in a string of failures that has prompted an expert panel to recommend that doctors stop giving it to patients.

Health officials reported Wednesday that the spray performed dismally for the third straight year, while the traditiona­l flu shot — the one that stings — worked reasonably well this winter.

“We could find no evidence (the spray) was effective,” said Dr. Joseph Bresee, a flu expert at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The product, AstraZenec­a’s FluMist, was once regarded as the best vaccine for protecting children against flu. Only two years ago, officials advised doctors that whenever possible they should use FluMist on young kids instead of flu shots.

On Wednesday, a federal advisory committee on immunizati­on voted to retract its endorsemen­t of the vaccine after preliminar­y CDC study results presented to the committee showed it provided no protection from the flu strain that made most people sick last year.

Recommenda­tions from the committee are usually adopted by the government, which sends the guidance out to doctors.

Most Americans get the vaccine in the form of a shot.

FluMist is the only spray-inthe-nose vaccine on the market. It was first licensed in 2003 and is approved for healthy people ages 2 to 49. Unlike shots made from a killed virus, it is made from a live but weakened flu virus.

The nasal spray accounts for just 8 percent of the total flu vaccine doses produced each year. But because it’s mainly used in kids, about a third of the flu vaccinatio­ns of children were done with FluMist, health officials say.

Studies have shown the vaccine didn’t work well against the most common flu strains in any of the past three flu seasons.

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