It's welcome news, at least to the tiny tots- FluMist, a live viral nasal spray seems much more effective than jabs of the seasonal flu vaccine.
Injected vaccines for flu contain inactive or weakened viruses, and are given in two doses for infants starting from 6 months of age, to prepare them for the flu season.
Flu or influenza can result in even deaths, of infants, elders and others with compromised immune systems and flu vaccines are highly recommended by doctors across the U.S.
As of now, FluMist- a nasal spray that carries millions of live viruses that cause the flu, is not recommended by the FDA, in infants under 5 years or elders above 50 years of age, one of the reasons being, higher episodes of wheezing or asthmatic attacks.
Yet a study, partly sponsored by the vaccine's manufacturer, MedImmune, has come out with seemingly undisputable results that the vaccine can indeed be given to children under 5 years.
The study led by Dr. Robert B. Belshe, a vaccine researcher at St. Louis University's medical school and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, claims that children immunized with FluMist were better at fighting off the flu, caused by even strains that differed somewhat from those they had been vaccinated with.
For the study, about 8000 children below the age of 5 (between 6 to 59 months old) were chosen from 249 international sites.
They were randomly assigned to receive either the live attenuated vaccine (FluMist) or the inactivated vaccine by injection.
There was a reduced incidence of lab-recorded flu by a highly significant, 55 percent.
Says co-author of an accompanying editorial, Dr. Carolyn Bridges of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: It looks like the live attenuated vaccine has promise to improve the prevention of influenza in young children. We'll have to weigh the risks and benefits and we have to see what the FDA has to say, but it's nice that we may have another tool.
Belshe says there could be several reasons why the live vaccine is more effective in this young age group: First, when you spray it into the nose, antibodies develop at the location where they're needed most, because the flu virus is transmitted in the air and is often inhaled through the nose. Additionally, the live vaccine seems to offer broader protection against different strains of the flu in children, even in strains not included in the vaccine.
Yet it was seen that wheezing occurred more often in children who received the nasal spray vaccine, especially in children less than 12 months.
For that reason, Belshe says he would not recommend the nasal vaccine for children under one year of age.
As of now, MedImmune will be seeking approval for FluMist to be sold to children above one year of age to protect them from the seasonal flu.