State Health Department Addresses Confusion Over Nasal Flu Vaccine
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
DENVER - Due to repeated reports on concerns about the nasal flu vaccine called FluMist and an expectation that significant quantities of FluMist and injectable vaccine will be arriving in Colorado soon, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Tuesday alerted the public to the benefits of receiving FluMist, to dispel any myths and confusion associated with the medication.
"FluMist is a very valuable tool in our fight against flu, so we're concerned about the misinformation that is circulating regarding this vaccine," said Chief Medical Officer Ned Calonge. "This is a critical time in our flu-fighting efforts because we anticipate several additional categories of people soon will be able to get the flu vaccinations for both seasonal and H1N1 influenza."
FluMist is a live, attenuated, influenza vaccine (LAIV). Because the LAIV uses a weakened live flu virus, it differs slightly from the injectable vaccine, which uses a killed virus. Both vaccines have a small amount of flu virus in them to cause vaccinated people’s bodies to create antibodies that protect them from infection from the flu.
“The live virus in the FluMist vaccine is a very weakened virus, so it allows the body to respond to the virus’ presence without getting the vaccinated person sick,” Calonge explained.
People, including health-care workers, between the ages of 2 and 49 can receive FluMist vaccine. A very small group of health-care workers are recommended not to receive the vaccine. “LAIV is a very good option for most health-care providers who are healthy, younger than 50 years old and not pregnant,” according to a statement from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “However, health-care providers should not get LAIV if they are providing medical care for patients who require special environments in the hospital because they are profoundly immunocompromised (e.g., those who work in bone marrow transplant units).” Although no immunocompromised patient has been shown to be harmed by use of LAIV among attending health-care workers, the recommendation against the use of LAIV in health-care workers with this type of patient contact is intended as an extra precaution for fragile immunocompromised patients, according to CDC.
“We believe the recommendation against a small group of health-care providers not getting the LAIV has caused some members of the public to misunderstand the underlying safety of the vaccine, and to opt against using this important flu-fighting medication,” Calonge said.
Throughout the fall, Calonge, along with CDC officials, has stressed the safety of both the LAIV and injectable flu vaccines. “These are safe vaccines that are made in the same way as flu vaccines are made each year,” he noted.
Coloradans looking for flu vaccination clinics may go to http://www.immunizecolorado.com/ and click the link for “Find a flu clinic.” They can search by city, town or zip code to find locations where vaccines are available. People also can receive this information by calling the CO HELP hotline at 1-877-462-2911.