Widespread Use of Intranasal Flu Vaccine Doesn't Show Unexpected Serious Risks

Armen Hareyan's picture

Intranasal Flu Vaccine

Approximately 2.5 million people received the intranasal influenza vaccine the last 2 flu seasons, and a new study did not identify unexpected serious risks associated with use of this vaccine, according to an article in the December 7 issue of JAMA.


Annual influenza vaccination is the primary method for protection against influenza illness, according to background information in the article. Until the 2002-2003 influenza season, the only licensed influenza vaccine in the United States was the inactivated, trivalent (reacting immunologically with three different combining sites [as of antigens or antibodies]) injectable vaccine, with recommendations emphasizing use among individuals for whom influenza is of particular concern. In June 2003, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) licensed a trivalent live, attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV-T [FluMist]) for intranasal use among healthy persons 5 to 49 years of age. Each dose contains live attenuated influenza virus of the 3 strains recommended by the U.S. Public Health Service for the corresponding influenza season. Although the number of vaccinees studied during prelicensure LAIV-T clinical trials was relatively large (20,228), postlicensure administration of the vaccine to much larger populations could reveal new safety issues.

Hector S. Izurieta, M.D., M.P.H., of the Food and Drug Administration, Rockville, Md., and colleagues examined the adverse events reported to the U.S. Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) during the first 2 influenza seasons (2003-2004, 2004-2005) following LAIV-T licensure to identify new or unexpected adverse events, including rare events.

Approximately 2,500,000 persons received LAIV-T during the first 2 postlicensure seasons. As of August 16, 2005, VAERS received 460 adverse event reports for vaccinations received from August 2003 through July 2005. No fatalities were reported. There were 7 reports of possible anaphylaxis (hypersensitivity reaction to the injection of a substance resulting from prior contact with a substance), 2 reports of Guillain-Barr