Popular flu mist no longer recommended

The winter flu season could be slightly more painful for a lot of people. While pharmacies around the Bay Area have begun offering flu vaccinations. One popular alternative is not being recommended this year.

Dr. Randy Bergen, M.D., has spent decades fighting the flu. But this year, he's bracing for some sad faces.

"I think not only are parents going to be disappointed, and children are going to be disappointed but there's a lot of pediatricians that are disappointed too," he predicts.

Dr. Bergen helps direct a program at Kaiser Permanente that vaccinated more than 1 million people in Northern California last year. While some received a shot, others, including many children, opted for the popular flu mist. It's a choice that's not available this year at Kaiser or any of the other large hospital groups and pharmacies we checked with.

"In studies that have looked at the effectiveness of the flu vaccine over the last three years, it just hasn't measured up compared to the injectable vaccine," says Dr. Bergen.

Over the summer, an advisory committee to the Centers for Diseases Control recommended against using the nasal spray. They claimed data from the 2013-2014 flu season, showed the mist was barely effective, including among younger patients.

Manufacturer AstraZeneca disputes the CDC conclusion, saying it's studies found a much higher effectiveness rate against the strains in recent circulation.

And while nobody is sure exactly why the mist would have performed poorly, experts say vaccines are constantly being modified to keep up with emerging variations in the flu virus. That means the mist could be updated and return in future seasons. But for this year, parents and kids may have to make the tradeoff between a short sting, and protection against the flu.

Click here for full coverage on the flu.

Written and produced by Tim Didion.
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