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Flu Shot More Effective Than Nasal Spray

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Flu Shot More Effective Than Nasal Spray

Flu Shot More Effective Than Nasal Spray

Flu Shot More Effective Than Nasal Spray

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As public health officials kick into high gear over swine flu, there's word that a vaccine for regular seasonal flu might not be as effective as first believed. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that FluMist, which is inhaled, was only half as effective as a regular flu shot for ordinary seasonal flu.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

Because of swine flu, getting this year's flu vaccine or vaccines could be trickier than usual. Now comes a study that adds to the confusion, researchers have found that FluMist, a flu vaccine that you inhale, is not as effective for adults as once believed.

NPR's Richard Knox explains.

RICHARD KNOX: There's no question FluMist works well in children. It gives better and more lasting protection against flu than conventional flu shots, but in adults, results have been less clear.

Flu expert Arnold Monto of the University of Michigan thought FluMist would be at least as good or better than conventional flu shots in adults, but his group's new study in this week's New England Journal of Medicine shows the nasal spray vaccine is not as good as the shot in the arm type.

Professor ARNOLD MONTO (Epidemiology professor, University of Michigan): If you are vaccinated with the injected vaccine, you have about a 70 percent chance of preventing influenza. With a nasal spray vaccine you're not going to get quite as much protection if you're an adult.

KNOX: In fact, only half as much protection as conventional flu shots. But that's with seasonal flu. With the new pandemic flu virus circulating this fall, Monto says FluMist might be just as good at protecting younger adults. The nasal spray vaccine is approved for people up to age 50.

Prof. MONTO: In terms of the pandemic H1N1 virus, most of the population are just like children, they have not been exposed previously to this virus and therefore, it's likely that the nasal spray will work perfectly well.

KNOX: Monto says if he had the choice, he'd probably opt for getting an ordinary flu shot, but FluMist will be the first pandemic flu vaccine in clinics in doctors offices, possibly as soon as next week. And the pandemic virus is already circulating in all 50 states.

Prof. MONTO: So there is a clear threat and a reason not to delay getting vaccinated once the vaccine is available.

KNOX: But next year, after millions of people have been exposed to the new virus, there's certain to be a debate about whether most adults can get good protection from the nasal vaccine.

An official at MedImmune, which makes FluMist, says the jury's still out on the vaccine's ability to protect against seasonal flu in adults. So far, he says, studies have gone both ways on the question.

Richard Knox, NPR News.

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