Why is it that every night on the news, we see vials of H1N1 vaccine rolling down the assembly line, yet when we see film footage of actual vaccination administrations, children are being sprayed with a mist in the nose? Have you ever seen a nasal spray vaccine? Probably not, since this is a very new medical technology. The H1N1 vaccines that are finally being shipped out to clinics and health departments across the country consist mostly of the H1N1 inhalant vaccine, known as FluMist. As a parent myself, I want to know what FluMist is and if it's safe. So I went digging....

What is FluMist vaccine and is it safe?

No one outside the medical community I have spoken to has ever heard of an inhalable flu vaccine. The making of a spray vaccine has been a quiet process, instigated by the pharmaceutical company Medimmune, who received permission in 2002 to market an inhalable vaccine. FluMist first came to the attention of doctors in 2003 when Medimmune contracted with Wal-Mart to offer an inhalable vaccination right in the store as a convenient courtesy to shoppers with children. Since the dose is pre-measured in a syringe that has no needle, this vaccination is not painful to give, does not require an alcohol swabbing, and does not have the problem of disposable needles.

This seemingly miracle vaccination instantly met with resistance. A little-known fact about the spray vaccine is that it was made with a live virus, not a dead virus, which is used in all flu vaccinations. The concern in 2003 was that because FluMist was a live virus, it could make vaccinated children ill and transmit that infection to others. Both were true.

Use of the nasal flu vaccination in the U.S. was abandoned. Parents expect a flu vaccination to be a preventative measure, not a potentially harmful one. Medimmune took its technology to the third world, where the need for a needle-less vaccination was greater and standards for its safety were lower. In countries and cultures where there is shortage of needles, lack of refrigeration for injectable vaccine serum, and superstitious fears of injection, the nasal mist is a great idea and a veritable life-saver. In these countries, the risk of illness from a vaccine spray is far smaller than a deadly contagion where modern medical care is not available. The bottom line is that the cost-to-benefit ratio is much higher in the third world than first world countries.

The American medical community should have seen the last of the live virus flu spray, an experiment that didn't pass our medical standards. But due to the fact that it is easy to produce and administer, coupled with the tremendous demand for vaccinations now that we're in the height of the H1N1 flu season, we are seeing the H1N1 FluMist shipping out by the truckloads.

The 2009 FluMist H1N1 vaccination contains the live swine flu virus that is modified (attenuated is the medical term) in such a way that it only infects the nose and throat. There are two reasons for this: first, the H1N1 virus becomes lethal when it reaches the lungs; second, the nose and throat are cooler than the lungs and the FluMist virus dies under higher temperatures. When the flu mist is administered into the nose, it remains in the nasal sinus area where the body can develop anti-bodies to it.

As good as this may sound, the very big concern we all should have is the fact that a live virus is being spray up our children's noses. Think about that for a minute. A dead virus is relatively innocuous, but a live virus is a live virus. And it remains living (contagious) for 21 days. The possible side effects published for the H1N1 nasal vaccine is runny nose, cough, and sore throat, similar to the common cold. This may seem like a small price to pay in lieu of getting a full-blown, potentially lethal form of the flu. And some parents may feel this way. In the end, it is up to every parent to decide, but to decide on the basis of information, not fear or panic.

The important fact to weigh in on is the contagious nature of the nasal flu spray. Many parents are likely to have their kids innoculated with the vaccine spray and then send them out with a sense of security to their schools and playgrounds, where the virus they have just inhaled can be spread. While it's true and can be argued that the flu virus is only the mild form -- not the lethal form that requires hospitalization -- it's too soon to tell if indeed the modification of this living virus contained in the spray really does stay in the nose and throat, and never makes its way to the lungs. There's no two ways about it, the flu mist does have risks, some of which remain untested and unknown.

Every parent, and anyone considering getting a flu vaccination, will do well to consider these risks. Many of the medical professionals I have spoken with, including one at the Mayo Clinic, say that with proper information and precautions, the H1N1 flu spray can be a good idea. Here are the important points they say to keep in mind:

If the swine flu vaccine is available in your community or from your doctor, find out which form of vaccine they are administering. There are three forms of vaccine: 1) the vaccine spray, 2) single-dose injectable vaccine, and 3) multiple-dose injectable vaccine. Of the three, the most safe is the single-dose flu shot. Because it's a single dose, it does not require the preservative Thiosermal, which contains mercury. The multiple-dose shot does contain mercury, and while it's not a large amount and is probably not harmful to most people, it can be harmful to some people.

The truth of the matter is, you will most likely not have a choice of the three. Most clinics and doctors get what they get and are very grateful to have their allotted amount, given the very short supply. Even though you don't have a choice, if you know ahead of time which form of the vaccine you will be getting, there are things you can do to minimize adverse effects of any of the vaccines, if you know which one you're contending with.

If the single dose is available, count yourself as fortunate. If you get this vaccine, there is not a lot you need to do to minimize side effects other than keep your physical activity, stress and exposure to extreme cold down for a few days.

If the multiple dose is available, weigh the fact that a small amount of mercury is contained in the vaccine. The virus is a dead virus, which means it is not contagious. You might experience some mild side effects. To prevent these, minimize your physical activity, stress and exposure to cold for at least several days. Boost your immune system with additional Vitamin C and antioxidants.

If the flu mist is available, reread this article. If you or your children do choose to get the flu mist, keep in mind that you will be contagious for as many as 21 days. Stay away from public places as much as possible, wash your hands at least once an hour and always after blowing your nose or rubbing your eyes, blow your nose into a kleenex, and always cough into a kleenex or into the sleeve of your shirt. If you begin to experience cold-like symptoms, treat it as an illness and not merely a few side effects. Drink lots of fluids, take zinc and Vitamin C, rest as much as possible, and don't eat congesting foods (dairy especially) until you feel better.

Finally, talk to other parents and anyone else you know who has or knows someone who has had any form of the swine flu vaccine. Ask them about the side effects and any suspicion of contagious spreading. The H1N1 flu mist vaccine is still in a testing phase, and it was rushed to market. Don't be gullible to the fact that the wide-spread use of the flu mist vaccination is a fantastic financial and scientific testing opportunity for the manufacturer, Medimmune. It's up to you to decide if you want to participate in the test.

I encourage you to get informed about the swine flu vaccine. Here is an excellent starting point:
Swine Flu Vaccine Information

Author's Bio: 

Lynn Baer is a nutritional researcher/writer, specializing in body detoxification, weight loss and nutrition. Her website DetoxSafely.org is a complete reference guide for safe, natural cleansing and body detoxification. Detoxing can be harmful if not approached wisely. DetoxSafely.org provides information about how to plan every aspect of your detox program, including a detailed preparation guide for a safe, doctor-recommended detox program.