Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What about the Nasal Influenza Vaccine? What is Flumist?

There is only one approved alternative to the influenza shot vaccine and that is a nasal spray containing a weakened but live influenza virus. The product has the commercial name of Flumist. It is approved for people from age 2 to 49 years old, with some key provisos. There should be no known history of severe egg allergy, no concomitant aspirin use, no known weakened immune system, including chronic diseases of the heart and lungs (including wheezing, asthma). In other words, the patients must be completely healthy.

Pros: There is no thiomersal, a preservative. The effectiveness is about the same as the injection of influenza vaccine without the injection.

Cons: Cost is about twice what the injection costs. Equally unlikely to be covered by most insurances in my experience in South Carolina.

Summary: The live attenuated (weakened) influenza vaccine, given by nasal spray, is a significant option for those who are healthy, dislike injections, and willing to pay more. [This includes my youngest daughter, who refused to get the injection, so we paid her pediatrician $57. Good thing for HSAs.]

If you have questions, read the Center of Disease Control's summary and ask you doctor...

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