Needle-Free Flu Vaccine for Home Use May Be Approved Next Year

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Oct. 27, 2023 – A self-administered nasal spray flu vaccine could be available next season. 

Drug-maker AstraZeneca announced this week that the FDA is currently considering approving the needle-free option for home use. Called FluMist, the vaccine must be refrigerated and would be shipped in insulated packaging to people’s homes. 

FluMist has been around for more than two decades and is approved for people ages 2 to 49 years old. It’s fallen in and out of favor over the years, including one period where a CDC advisory panel highlighted FluMist as the preferred flu vaccine for children. Later, its effectiveness was questioned, leading to a reformulation effort, STAT News reported.

AstraZeneca expects the FDA to make a decision on whether to allow home use of FluMist by Spring 2024. The convenience of home administration could increase the number of people who get a flu vaccine, said Ravi Jhaveri, MD, Chief of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

“Vaccination rates for children and adults under 50 years of age declined in the 2022-2023 flu season, highlighting a need for more accessible solutions,” said Jhaveri in an AstraZeneca press release. “The ability for individuals and parents to choose where to administer an injection-free flu vaccine could help increase access and, subsequently, vaccination rates, and greatly benefit those most impacted by this serious and contagious respiratory illness.” 

The CDC says flu activity so far this season remains low. In the past week, 1,456 people were admitted to hospitals with the flu. The CDC says 137 million flu vaccine doses have distributed in the U.S., and about 21% of children have gotten the flu shot as of Oct. 14, which is similar to last year, according to the CDC. About 25% of adults were vaccinated for flu as of Oct. 21, and about 18% of pregnant people had gotten a flu shot as of the end of September, which is up slightly from 17% last year.

The CDC recommends that everyone age 6 months and older get a flu vaccine.