FluMist Quadrivalent is the only type of Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine (LAIC) available on the market in Hong Kong. It was once available from 2009 to 2013 but was discontinued after 2013. It was registered again in Hong Kong in April 2018. Due to the heavy burden of influenza and the high demand for flu vaccine in Hong Kong, the reintroduction of the nasal spray flu vaccine could relieve flu shot shortages in the private sector and provide citizens with an alternative vaccine option.
The spray may ward off worries about the side effects of injections, particularly with children, and can encourage more people to get vaccinated. We asked family practitioner Dr. Lily Wong 黃淑婷醫生 to explain what is the nasal spray flu vaccine in detail.
What is FluMist Quadrivalent flu vaccine exactly?
FluMist Quadrivalent is a vaccine that is sprayed into the nose to help protect against influenza. Its effectiveness varies according to age group and the different virus strains.
How is the nasal spray flu vaccine given?
The vaccine is given as a single spray squirted up each nostril. As such, it does not involve any needles, the nasal spray is quick, painless, and works even better than the injected flu vaccine. Indeed, this flu vaccine is absorbed very quickly. Lastly, it will still work even if, after the vaccination, your child develops a runny nose, sneezes or blows their nose.
Who can receive the nasal spray flu vaccine in Hong Kong?
It is a nasal vaccine to prevent influenza (flu) and can be used in children, adolescents, and adults ages 2 through 49. It will help to protect against the four virus strains contained in the vaccine, and other strains closely related to them. For children under the age of 9 who never had a flu vaccine, they will need a second dose 4 weeks apart.
Who cannot and should not be vaccinated with the nasal spray flu vaccine in Hong Kong?
You should not get the FluMist if you are:
- under two years of age.
- ever had a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to egg, or to the antibiotic gentamicin. These are used in the manufacturing of the vaccine and may be present in tiny amounts.
- have a weak immune system, for example due to a genetic defect, disease such as Leukemia or lymphoma, or treatment with immunosuppressant medicines such a chemotherapy, high-dose corticosteroids, or immunosuppressants (e.g. used following an organ transplant).
- have symptomatic HIV infection.
- have severe asthma.
- take medicines containing salicylates.
Can pregnant and breastfeeding mothers get this flu vaccine in Hong Kong?
Since the nasal spray vaccine is a live virus it is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women.
What are the most common side effects of FluMist Quadrivalent?
Most common side effects are:
- a runny or blocked nose
- general tiredness
- loss of appetite
To learn more about flu vaccine in Hong Kong and where to receive them have a look at the Healthy Matters: Guide to Flu Vaccination in Hong Kong.
Clinical information reviewed in January 2019 by Dr. Lily Wong 黃淑婷醫生. Dr. Lily Wong is a family practitioner at The London Medical Clinic. She is both a registered general practitioner and pharmacist in the UK and HK. Having lived and worked as a general practitioner for many years in busy practices in London, she relocated to Hong Kong with her family a few years ago. Dr. Wong has also been appointed Honorary Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Hong Kong University, for her teaching of medical students.
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This article was independently written by Healthy Matters and is not sponsored. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be relied upon for specific medical advice.