U.S. officials report that a flu vaccine nose spray is safe when used as directed. Federal regulators have been tracking the safety of the drug since it was introduced several years ago, and it appears to be a good alternative to the needle.
The flu vaccine was introduced in the U.S. market in 2003. Like a flu injection, a squirt of the mist in each nostril is designed to protect the recipient from whatever virus is going around at the time.
After a drug is approved by federal regulators, they keep an eye on reports of bad reactions.
Hector Izurieta of the Food and Drug Administration and colleagues found the nasal flu spray appears to be extremely safe.
"Among 2.5 million people who received the vaccine, we received only 460, approximately, reports of illness or problems with the vaccination, that is not a large number," said Hector Izurieta.
Data on the nasal flu vaccine were published in the current issue of Journal of the American Medical Association.
Dr. Izurieta says the small number of people who did not do well on the spray had serious allergic reactions. He says most of them had a history of asthma.
According to the FDA doctor, the advantage of the drug is that more people might show up to be vaccinated against the flu if it involves a spray instead of a shot.
Dr. James Mattey is a pediatrician who says the vaccine spray is well received by his young patients.
"It looks like a shot, but there is no needle, its just a squirt gun," said James Mattey. "It goes up your nose."
The study shows that the flu mist is safe for use in children as young as five, who do not have asthma or other chronic conditions.
"We encourage our patients to consider it, we offer it as an option and will continue to do so," he said.
Data show the nasal mist can be used safely in healthy adults up to age 49.
Experts say people often report feeling a little tired or run-down after a flu shot and they found the same thing with the nasal spray. But they say that is not the same thing as a serious side effect that needs to be reported to regulators.