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Intranasal flu vaccine not linked to unexpected serious risks

Approximately 2.5 million people received the intranasal influenza vaccine the last 2 flu seasons, and a new study did not identify unexpected serious risks associated with use of this vaccine.

Until the 2002-2003 influenza season, the only licensed influenza vaccine in the United States was the inactivated, trivalent injectable vaccine, with recommendations emphasizing use among individuals for whom influenza is of particular concern.

In June 2003, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ( FDA ) licensed a trivalent live, attenuated influenza vaccine ( LAIV-T ; FluMist ) for intranasal use among healthy persons 5 to 49 years of age.
Each dose contains live attenuated influenza virus of the 3 strains recommended by the U.S. Public Health Service for the corresponding influenza season. Although the number of vaccinees studied during prelicensure LAIV-T clinical trials was relatively large ( 20,228 ), postlicensure administration of the vaccine to much larger populations could reveal new safety issues.

Hector S. Izurieta, of the Food and Drug Administration, Rockville, and colleagues examined the adverse events reported to the U.S. Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System ( VAERS ) during the first 2 influenza seasons ( 2003-2004, 2004-2005 ) following LAIV-T licensure to identify new or unexpected adverse events, including rare events.

Approximately 2,500,000 persons received LAIV-T during the first 2 postlicensure seasons.
As of August 16, 2005, VAERS received 460 adverse event reports for vaccinations received from August 2003 through July 2005.
No fatalities were reported.
There were 7 reports of possible anaphylaxis ( hypersensitivity reaction to the injection of a substance resulting from prior contact with a substance ), 2 reports of Guillain-Barré syndrome, 1 report of Bell palsy and 8 reports of asthma exacerbation among individuals with a prior asthma history.
Events in individuals for whom the vaccine was not indicated accounted for 73 reports ( 16 percent ).

" Reports to VAERS in the first 2 seasons of LAIV-T use did not identify any unexpected serious risk with this vaccine when used according to approved indications. Like many vaccines and other medical products, LAIV-T may rarely cause anaphylaxis. As with other vaccines, LAIV-T could carry the risk of anaphylaxis or other allergic events. Continued monitoring of neurological events, such as GBS, appears warranted. Determination of the risk of secondary transmission of the vaccine virus would require a focused clinical study," the authors write.

" The reports of asthma exacerbations in vaccinees with prior asthma history highlight the potential risks of not following the approved indications and support the need for continued close surveillance for asthma exacerbations following use of this vaccine. The finding of a high proportion of vaccine administration errors and the reports of use among persons for whom this vaccine was not indicated underscore the need for the clinician to follow the package insert indications regarding vaccine administration and patient eligibility," the researchers conclude.

Source: American Medical Association, 2005