The nasal spray version of the flu vaccine, popular with children but largely unavailable this season due to questions about its effectiveness, is likely to return next fall.
That could increase the number of children who get vaccinated and at least partially protected from the flu virus, which has contributed to the deaths of 84 children since October and is likely to produce record hospitalizations, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
An expert panel voted Wednesday to recommend use of FluMist and the CDC is likely to accept the recommendation, according to Dr. Kathleen M. Neuzil, a member of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
“In all, we want to give parents and children the broadest choice possible for influenza prevention,” said Neuzil, a professor of medicine and pediatrics and director of the Center for Vaccine Development at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
The panel had said in 2016, after reviewing three years of data, that the mist didn’t work. At the time, the nasal spray represented about 8 percent of vaccine supplies, but a third of children two and older were using it.
Neuzil said the American Academy of Pediatrics has not yet made a recommendation about its use, which could be influential. But she said that manufacturer’s effort to improve the vaccine and pooled results from studies since 2016 have shown overall effectiveness against circulating strains.
“We are pleased that the ACIP has voted in support of a renewed recommendation for FluMist Quadrivalent in the U.S. and look forward to continuing to work with public health authorities to optimize protection against influenza,” said Gregory Keenan, vice president of U.S. medical affairs for AstraZeneca, parent company of Gaithersburg-based MedImmune, which produces FluMist.