CDC recommends popular nasal spray vaccine, FluMist, not be used this season

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Flu vaccines are about to get more painful for those with needle-phobia.

Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended that FluMist , the nasal spray influenza vaccine, not be used for the upcoming 2016-2017 flu season.

That means those getting vaccinated will have to get the standard flu shot.

According to Mary Wisinski, the Immunization Supervisor at the Kent County Health Department, doctors for years have been using the live attenuated influenza vaccine, or FluMist, as an effective alternative to the inactivated influenza vaccine, otherwise known as the standard flu shot. Wisinski says both vaccines were created to do the same thing: develop immunity to the flu.

Mary Wisinski

Mary Wisinski

The only difference is that FluMist is a live attenuated vaccine, meaning it's a live but weakened version of the flu virus that cannot cause disease. Instead, it tricks your body into thinking it's the virus, therefore your body develops immunity. Injectable forms of the vaccine contain dead versions of the virus which triggers your body to develop immunity against the flu.

But this year, needle-free is no longer an option. A recent study shows live attenuated vaccine no longer works.

The ACIP decision comes after data was released from the U.S. Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness Network on the effectiveness of the nasal vaccine among children 2 years through 17 years during 2015-2016 season.

"Some years, the FluMist performed just as well as the inactivated vaccine, and then one year it even performed better," Wisinski said.

Just two years ago, the ACIP preferred FluMist over the alternative for kids ages 2-8.

However, data from the past three years shows FluMist's performance was lower than expected when it comes to vaccine effectiveness. The LAIV was only 3% effective compared to its substitute. The standard flu shot was effective 63% of the time.

"We could not in good consciousness give it to my patients, not with that small effectiveness, not when there’s a better alternative available," said Wisinski of the health department.

Wisinski says she has already cancelled her FluMist orders and replaced them with injectable forms of the flu shot. But the absence of FluMist means fewer vaccinations are available, which leaves providers like Wisinski worried that they will run short.

"It remains to be seen if we have enough doses," she said.

According to the CDC, vaccine manufacturers projected that as many as 176 million doses of flu vaccine, including both the FluMist and the injectable form, would be available during the 2016-2017 flu season in the U.S. The makers of LAIV projected a supply of as many as 14 million doses of LAIV/nasal spray flu vaccine, or about 8% of the total projected supply.

While the CDC is working with manufacturers to make sure supply meets demand, Wiskinski remains hopeful for the upcoming year. "We think there should be enough inactive flu vaccine available to cover what we need without the FluMist being here this season."

Wisinksi says last week's recommendation could be reevaluated and possibly reversed when the advisory committee meets again next year. She added that right now no one knows why the vaccine became less effective but tells FOX 17 researches are working to get answers. "They will keep studying it and measuring it and hopefully we will be able to bring it back for future flu seasons," Wisinski said,

Flu season usually starts anywhere from August to October and lasts until May.

According to a press release sent out by the CDC, the ACIP is recommending the standard flu vaccination with either the inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV) or recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV) for those 6 months and older.

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