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Studies: New Flu Spray Is As Good As The Shot

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Two studies during the last flu season found that a new version of the spray vaccine Flu Mist was as safe as the standard shot and even more effective, scientists said Monday.

The clinical trials involved 2,200 children age 6 months to 71 months who had a history of recurring respiratory illnesses and 2,200 6- to 17-year-olds with asthma.

In the younger group, those who got the spray vaccine had 53% less flu than those who got flu shots; in the older group, the reduction was 35%, said Ed Connor, chief medical officer at MedImmune, which manufactures FluMist. The findings were released at a meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in San Francisco.

The studies were conducted by Wyeth, a former partner with MedImmune on FluMist. The two companies announced last week that they were parting ways ''to better meet the financial and operational goals of both companies,'' according to a statement.

FluMist, which became available for the first time during the last flu season, was not widely accepted, partly because it is licensed only for healthy individuals ages 5 to 49. It must be kept frozen, making it difficult to use in some vaccine campaigns, which are often held in workplaces or pharmacies that don't have facilities for storing it, Connor said. The new version differs only slightly from the original and is refrigerator-stable, making it more convenient to store and use.

MedImmune will continue testing the vaccine during the next flu season and will seek to have it licensed for expanded use in younger children, possibly by 2007.

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