by Jonathan Corral
Scared of needles?
Tired of going to doctors’ offices and coming out with a sore or bruised arm?
If so, then you are in luck this flu season.
The Food and Drug Administration has just licensed a new influenza vaccine as an alternative to that horrible shot.
The Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine, also known as FluMist, is a breakthrough in the fight against the flu.
Unlike the traditional shot, FluMist contains the weakened live influenza virus instead of dead virus cells.
And FluMist is administered by nasal spray instead of injection.
When the viruses in LAIV are sprayed into the nose, they stimulate the body’s immune system to develop protective antibodies that will prevent infection from naturally occurring influenza viruses.
Each year doctors identify the emerging strains of flu to inoculate against, and this year’s strain is expected to be severe.
Doctors and researchers believe the nasal delivery method will be more palatable.
“The main difference is the FluMist contains weakened live influenza, which in turn means that there will be less flu-like symptoms,” said Dr. Kedy Jao, who runs a family practice in La Mirada.
“Plus I think a lot of my patients will prefer this instead of the shot,” he added.
The nasal spray causes fewer side-effects because the flu-like viral cells can grow in the nose and throat instead of the lower respiratory tract, where the body temperature is higher and viral cells thrive.
Another difference between the two is that FluMist is only given to healthy people ages 5-49 years old.
The vaccination, on the other hand, is approved for anyone aged 6 months and older, including those with chronic medical conditions.
“I feel the FluMist only plays to a limited audience,” said Cynthia Denne, director of student health services at the University.
“The cost of FluMist is around $46 compared to the shot, which is only $10 at the Student Health Center.”
There are some similarities between the old and the new.
They both contain three influenza strains, each of which represents one of the three types of flu circulating in a given year.
Both should be administered once a year, usually at the start of the flu season, October through November.
And just like the shot, there are side-effects with the FluMist, but they are not as severe and do not last as long.
With every new product, safety studies must be part of the approval process.
So far, the new FluMist, has not caused any serious complications.
A study among adults using FluMist instead of the traditional shot found:
• 19 percent fewer suffered from severe respiratory tract illnesses;
• 24 percent fewer suffered from respiratory tract illnesses with fever;
• 23-27 percent fewer experienced fewer days of illness;
• 13-28 percent fewer lost work days, 15-41 percent fewer health care provider visits;
• and 43-47 percent less use of antibiotics.
There have not been enough studies to show which of the flu vaccinations on the market is better.
“I think right now it is hard to say how popular this product will be,” Denne said.
“There are just too many restrictions on it that might keep people away from using it,” Denne said.
“But who knows? In three or four years the price may come down,” she said.
For more information about influenza, FluMist or flu shots, call the ULV student health center at (909) 593-3511, ext. 4254.