AstraZeneca is seeking FDA approval for its nasal spray flu vaccine, FluMist, for self-administration, at home.
If granted FDA approval, FluMist will be the first and only at-home, self-administered flu vaccine.
An expert explains everything you need to know about the nasal flu vaccine route.
‘Tis the season to get your flu shot. But next flu season, getting your vaccine may look different. In fact, an at-home flu vaccine may be available as soon as next year. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reviewing an application for the nasal spray flu vaccine, known as FluMist, for self-administration, at home.
The nasal spray flu vaccine has been on the market in the United States since 2003. AstraZeneca, the drugmaker behind FluMist, has asked the FDA to allow adults ages 18 to 49 to give themselves the vaccine, or to give it to children as young as age 2. If the application is approved, it would be the first flu vaccine cleared for self-administration.
What is the at-home nasal flu vaccine?
FluMist is a quadrivalent live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) administered as a nasal spray, says Ravi Jhaveri, M.D., division head and professor in infectious disease at Northwestern University School of Medicine. “For more than 20 years, FluMist has served as a critical public health tool as the only needle-free intranasal flu vaccine providing protection to communities around the world.”
If granted FDA approval, FluMist has the potential to be the first and only self-administered flu vaccine, providing a convenient new option for all eligible patients ages 2 to 49, Dr. Jhaveri explains. “The option for self- or caregiver-administration of an injection-free flu vaccine could revolutionize how individuals, families, and communities vaccinate against the flu by helping expand access, addressing an unmet need, and bringing an innovative, convenient option for patients to access flu protection,” he adds.
Is the nasal flu vaccine as effective as the shot?
The nasal flu vaccine has extensive data demonstrating comparable effectiveness and acceptable safety relative to other flu vaccines, says Dr. Jhaveri. “The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the vaccine as a vaccination option for the 2023-2024 influenza season and advises pediatricians to vaccinate their patients against influenza with either the flu shot or the nasal spray vaccine.”
Who qualifies for the nasal flu vaccine?
The label for FluMist will remain the same and self or caregiver administration will be an option available for all eligible patients ages 2 to 49, says Dr. Jhaveri. “If approved by the FDA, individuals over 18 years of age can self-administer or administer FluMist to others ages 2 to 49 (ie. parents will also be able to give it to eligible children).” So for those over 50, you’ll still need to get your annual jab.
However, just like the shot, patients should not get the nasal flu vaccine if they have a severe (anaphylactic) allergy to eggs or have ever had a life-threatening reaction to an influenza vaccination, says Dr. Jhaveri.
What are the side effects of the nasal flu vaccine?
The side effects from the flu shot and the nasal spray vaccine are similar, but there are some unique to the nasal option, like runny nose and nasal congestion.
Per Dr. Jhaveri, common side effects of the nasal vaccine include:
Runny nose/nasal congestion
How can I get the at-home flu vaccine once it’s available?
While the specifics are still being worked out, AstraZeneca’s goal is for eligible patients to be able to order FluMist directly from an online partner and have it shipped to their home, says Dr. Jhaveri. “Self-administration of FluMist could expand access to flu vaccines outside of traditional settings, providing a convenient option to busy individuals, parents, and caregivers to vaccinate themselves and eligible members of their family.”
The bottom line
Flu vaccination rates have declined in adults and children during the past flu season, so it’s exciting to have a potential new innovative option that would provide individuals and caregivers the ability to choose where to administer an injection-free flu vaccine. This could increase access and, subsequently, vaccination rates, says Dr. Jhaveri. “In my prior research, there were several patients and families who shared that they would not have received a vaccine if they did not have the intranasal option—self-administration will open doors for people like them.”
While we wait to see if we can order our flu shots from our couch in 2024, be sure to protect yourselves this flu season by getting your flu shot, or nasal spray flu vaccine, ASAP. Stay safe out there!
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