November 27, 2021

Are nasal vaccines right for you?

Nasal Antiviral Vaccines
Flu vaccines today. COVID-19 vaccines tomorrow?  

Maybe you’ve heard about new COVID-19 nasal vaccines being tested here and in Europe. Though not available yet, it seems likely they will be sometime in the future. 

If not, maybe you’ve heard about the nasal flu vaccine–or even received one in the past?  In fact, nasal flu vaccines have been with us for over a decade. FluMist was first approved in 2003 after 4 decades of research and trials at the University of Michigan.

Here’s what you need to know about nasal antivirals if you’re considering getting a flu vaccine (and you should be) in the near future.

Sniff or Jab?  

So which is more effective, the spray or the needle? Like all things virus-related, it depends. Some do better with a shot, others with a sniff. Though, overall, both have been considered effective, the best bet is to talk to your doctor.

In theory at least, some experts think nasal vaccines should be better than a shot in the arm at generating an immune response against the flu (and COVID-19, if or when it is approved). That’s because they’re administered at the point of the microbes’ attack–through the “mucosa,” or the tissues that line the mouth, nose and digestive track. 

In theory, because it hasn’t always worked out that way. The flu seasons of 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 dealt with the H1N1 virus. Researchers found that the nasal vaccine in use at the time was not as effective against that strain and recommended against administering it. 

The reason was less about the way the vaccine was administered and more about the vaccine itself. The vaccine manufacturer needed to play catchup to a constantly mutating virus (Sound familiar?). Following the 2018 flu season, FluMist was updated to include A(H1N1) vaccine virus ingredients, and it was back in use the following years (2018-2019). 

As of today, FluMist is among this year’s approved vaccines for those aged 2 to 49, with a few exceptions (see below). 

Who should not get the nasal flu vaccine, FluMist?
  • People less than 2 years of age 
  • People 50 years of age and older
  • People who have recently received flu medications, such Tamiflu (oseltamivir), Xofluza (baloxavir marboxil) and Relenza (zanamivir) — ask your doctor how soon is too soon 
  • People with a medical condition that places them at high risk for complications from the flu, including anyone with: 
    -Chronic heart disease
    -Lung disease, such as asthma or reactive airways disease
    -Medical conditions such as diabetes or kidney failure
    -Weakened immune systems or those who take medications that can weaken the immune system. 
  • Children or adolescents on an aspirin regimen 
  • People with a history of Guillain-Barré syndrome
  • Pregnant women 
  • People with a history of allergic reactions to flu vaccines 
Common side effects of FluMist
  • Runny or stuffy nose 
  • Headache 
  • Lack of energy
  • Cough 
  • Sore throat 
  • Achy muscles 
  • Mild fever 

The last word.

If you don’t like needles or have a child above the age of 2 who doesn’t like needles, consider the nasal spray.

If you’ve never received FluMist and have concerns or want to know if it could be more effective than a shot for you, talk to your doctor. 

Whichever vaccine you decide to get, be sure to get one of them. Experts fear this year could see a severe flu outbreak. Bottom line, get yourself protected.

As for COVID-19 nasal vaccines, stay tuned. We’ll bring you the latest as more details become available. 


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