You Might Be Able to Give Yourself a FluMist Vaccine at Home Next Year

Photo Illustration by Amelia Manley for Verywell Health; Getty Images
Photo Illustration by Amelia Manley for Verywell Health; Getty Images

Fact checked by Nick Blackmer

Key Takeaways

  • The FDA has agreed to review FluMist Quadrivalent for self-administration at home with a prescription.

  • FluMist is a nasal spray version of the flu shot approved for people aged 2–49.

  • If approved, the at-home flu vaccine could become available for the 2024–2025 flu season.

Next flu season, you may be able to administer your own flu vaccine through a nasal spray.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has agreed to review pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca’s request to consider approving the FluMist Quadrivalent influenza vaccine for self-administration. If the request is approved, eligible people would be able to give themselves the nasal spray flu vaccine at home (or receive it from a caregiver) instead of having to go to a clinic or pharmacy—and possibly as soon as next year.

FluMist is a needle-free nasal spray and a popular alternative to the standard flu shot for people ages 2–49. Its easy application makes it a good option to be given at home, according to data from a usability study. However, people would still need a prescription for the spray.

“Vaccinating more people safely against the flu is a public health priority,” Malathi Srinivasan, MD, clinical professor for primary care and population health at Stanford Healthcare, told Verywell. “Making flu vaccination easier with an at-home vaccination strategy has the potential to protect millions more people who might not have been vaccinated at their doctor’s office.”

Here’s what you should know about the possibility of giving yourself FluMist at home.

Related: How FluMist Nasal Flu Vaccine Works

Who Will Be Eligible to Give Themselves FluMist at Home?

FluMist Quadrivalent is a live attenuated single-dose nasal spray that protects against two strains of influenza A and two strains of influenza B. Currently, it’s approved for people ages 2–49.

Srinivasan said that being able to give yourself a flu shot at home would be a game-changer if you’re a caregiver, don’t have time for an appointment at a clinic or pharmacy, or are scared of needles.

While a prescription will still be needed to get a dose of FluMist, people will be able to use telehealth to get it, which could help make the vaccine more accessible.

That said, FluMist isn’t the best vaccine choice for everyone. For example, FluMist should not be used for:

  • Adults over the age of 50

  • Children aged 2–4 with a history of asthma or wheezing

  • Children aged 2–17 who routinely take aspirin (which can cause Reye’s syndrome)

  • People who have had a severe allergic reaction to the flu shot or are allergic to its ingredients (e.g., egg protein, gentamicin, gelatin, and arginine)

  • People with weakened immune systems

  • People who live or work with immunocompromised people

  • People who are pregnant

  • People with cochlear implants

  • People who have recently taken anti-viral flu medication

Consult with a healthcare provider about the use of FluMist for some other people:

  • People who have had a neurologic reaction (e.g., Guillain-Barré syndrome) to a flu vaccine in the past

  • People 5 years and older with asthma

  • People with other medical conditions (e.g., chronic lung diseases, heart disease, diabetes) that could put them at increased risk of serious flu complications

  • People with moderate or severe acute illness

People with a weak immune system and those who are pregnant have an increased risk of a viral infection. Since FluMist is a live attenuated inactivated vaccine, Srinivasan said that these people should get the standard flu shot, which only contains viral fragments.

Healthcare providers also like the idea of a self-administered nasal spray, which may help more people access the flu shot and boost uptake.

“As a nurse, I have administered many flu shots, and I can say a lot of patients and caregivers would love to avoid the pinch,” Amy Bierbaum, nurse practitioner and cardiology advanced practice registered nurse, told Verywell.

Is FluMist as Effective as Flu Shots?

FluMist is as effective as flu shots, but the effectiveness of both methods can vary by year, depending on the strain of the virus that’s going around. For example, during the 2009 H1N1 influenza outbreak, FluMist was found to be less effective than the shot, so it was not recommended for the 2016 and 2017 flu seasons.

In 2018, FluMist was recommended again after the manufacturer started using new influenza A (H1N1) ingredients. While there have not been any updated studies in the U.S. on the effectiveness of the new dose, research from other countries has shown it’s as safe and effective as the standard dose.

What Are the Challenges of Self-Administered FluMist?

While many providers think that self-administered FluMist vaccines could be a good thing, they still have questions about how the process will work—especially since FluMist needs to be stored at a certain temperature and administered correctly to ensure it’s safe and effective.

“My major concern is that people who shouldn’t be taking the nasal vaccine use it instead of the injected vaccine,” said Srinivasan. “I also worry that since FluMist needs to be kept at very cool temperatures, a busy parent might purchase FluMist and leave it in a hot car for a few hours.”

Another challenge could be tracking flu shot doses. Public health agencies need to keep records of how many people receive the flu vaccine each year, but it could be harder to get accurate data if people are giving themselves FluMist at home rather than going to a provider’s office, pharmacy, or clinic.

What This Means for You

The FDA could approve a self-administered version of the FluMist vaccine by next year. It could be a great option for people with busy schedules who don’t have time to schedule a vaccine at a clinic or pharmacy, as well as people who are afraid of needles.

That said, check with your provider about whether the nasal spray version of the vaccine would be the safest and most effective option for you.

Read the original article on Verywell Health.