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Panel Votes Against Nasal Flu Vaccine

Too many unanswered questions surround the spray

A federal health panel voted Friday not to endorse the first flu vaccine that can be administered through the nose.

An advisory committee to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled that the nasal spray FluMist is effective but potentially not safe, particularly for children and teens, according to this story from CNN.

Although the FDA is not bound by its advisory panels' advice, it seldom goes against their recommendations.

FluMist is made by Aviron, a biotech firm based in Mountain View, Calif. The company intended the product as an alternative to the standard flu vaccine shot, which contains a dead version of the flu virus. FluMist is made from a weakened live flu virus, the story says.

Because the vaccine contains a live virus, the committee decided that there were too many safety concerns surrounding the vaccine and more research was needed.

The flu and related flu symptoms cause 20,000 deaths annually in the United States, primarily among the elderly. The flu season runs from October through March.

Aviron chief executive C. Boyd Clarke says the company hopes to answer the panel's safety questions in time for FluMist to be available for the 2002-2003 flu season.

The panel's vote follows a recent announcement by federal health officials that the flu vaccine will be delayed for the second straight year. Officials project that only 15 million doses of the shots will be produced by the end of October, two months after many people traditionally start lining up to receive their injections.

So, officials are recommending that healthy people delay getting vaccinated to free up shots needed for the sick and the elderly. Others who should get vaccinated early because of a high flu risk include pregnant women and anyone with lung or heart problems or a condition that weakens the immune system.

For more on the flu vaccine situation, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the CDC's National Immunization Program.

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