For those who are needle-shy, or who have ever had the pleasure of explaining to a hysterical 5-year old that the shot isn’t going to hurt THAT much, and besides, it’s for the good of public health, a needle-free shot sounds like a great idea. FDA, however, disagreed, and issued a communication to that effect.
The communication was directed at the use of jet-injector devices to deliver seasonal influenza vaccines. Jet injectors are devices that deliver a high-pressure fluid jet through the skin to deliver medications and vaccines subcutaneously or intramuscularly. Some large retailers had been promoting “needleless flu shots” using jet injectors, but stopped after FDA issued its warning. According to FDA, the inactivated influenza vaccines are only approved for delivery by sterile needle and syringe, and the requisite evidence has not been obtained to approve other delivery methods.
According to the communication, “When the FDA approves a vaccine, the approval is based on scientific information demonstrating the safety and effectiveness of that vaccine in a given population (e.g., children, adults or the elderly), using a specific dose, schedule and method/route of administration. Changes in the dose, route and/or method of administration have the potential to impact the effectiveness and the safety profile of a vaccine.” Furthemore, “Jet injectors that have been cleared by FDA to deliver medications and vaccines should be used to deliver only those medications and vaccines that have been approved and specifically labeled for use with a jet injector.”
Besides having to endure vaccination with a needle, the other bad news is that seasonal flu shots may not be as effective as one would like. According to an article published online Oct. 26, 2011, in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, flu vaccines are only moderately protective, work better in young children than in adults, and protection can vary with season. The study was a meta-analysis of studies published between 1967 and Feb. 2011 that examined vaccine efficacy in a randomized, controlled setting.
As for me, I’d rather be 59% protected than not at all, so I’ll brave the needle. Besides, it’s for the good of public health.