MedImmune‘s FluMist, the only needle-free flu vaccine available in the U.S., has regained the support of an expert panel at the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has voted to recommend the nasal spray’s use, reversing a two-year-old decision to keep the product out of clinics due to efficacy concerns.
The panel voted to remove FluMist from a list of recommended vaccines in 2016 after studies showed that the part of the product that targets H1N1 flu viruses was not adequately protective. MedImmune, a division of AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN), has since replaced the virus used in the H1N1 component of the vaccine and testing in animal models has shown stronger degrees of efficacy, according to the company.
The panel voted 12 to 2 to recommend FluMist, suggesting that not everyone was comfortable encouraging clinics to dole out the nasal spray.
“We are pleased that the ACIP has voted in support of a renewed recommendation for FluMist Quadrivalent in the US and look forward to continuing to work with public health authorities to optimize protection against influenza,” Gregory Keenan, VP of U.S. medical affairs for AstraZeneca, said in prepared remarks.
One study published last year by the Penn State College of Medicine found that flu vaccine rates dropped slightly during the 2016 – 2017 flu season. Researchers concluded that among a number of factors contributing to the decline may have been the CDC’s recommendation against FluMist.
Dr. Ben Fogel, medical director of Penn State Pediatric Care, and Dr. Steven Hicks, assistant professor of pediatrics, studied 9,591 patients ages 2 to 17 years old in the 2014 – 2015, 2015 – 2016 and 2016 – 2017 flu seasons at the Penn State Pediatric Care clinic. They found that without the option of the nasal spray, total flu vaccine rates were 1.6% lower in the 2016 – 2017 season compared to the year before.
The team also noted that revaccination rates were lower in kids who had opted for the nasal spray the year before.
Fogel thinks there are many reasons why flu vaccine rates vary each year and that for most kids, even if they aren’t excited about the idea of an injection, they will get it if it’s the only option.
“[In 2016], I certainly had patients like an eight year old who would say ‘Well I don’t want a shot, can I just get the mist?’ and we say ‘We don’t have the mist,’ and they sort of get upset or frustrated and the dad says, ‘Well you’re getting it anyway,'” Fogel told Drug Delivery Business News. “The eight-year-old is not in charge – so there’s been a lot of patients where the kids were not that happy about it but they ended up getting the vaccine anyway.”