FluMist may be used in $2.5 billion federal program

GAITHERSBURG, Md. MedImmune’s nasal spray flu vaccine may be used in the $2.5 billion federal Vaccines for Children Program, the company said.

The Gaithersburg, Md.-based company has already begun shipping 4.5 million doses of refrigerated FluMist for the 2007-08 influenza season to customers in the United States and to U.S. military bases overseas.

In late September, the Food and Drug Administration approved expanding FluMist’s use to include children from 2 to 4 years old. The vaccine was previously approved for healthy people 5 to 49.

A Centers for Disease Control independent committee of 15 immunologists will decide whether to recommend FluMist for young children in the Vaccines for Children Program. That panel is scheduled to meet Oct. 28.

“The more we can do to vaccinate more children against this disease is very, very important,” said MedImmune spokeswoman Karen Lancaster.

Officials say 45 percent of children in the United States receive vaccines through the children’s program and the committee is the only body that determines what vaccines are included. It provides vaccines free to children without insurance and others.

The FDA approval for expanded use with younger children follows its OK in January of a refrigerated, rather than frozen, version of FluMist. While injected flu vaccines use a killed virus, FluMist uses a weakened live virus.

“It is a wonderful step in the evolution of FluMist that no longer do we have to have the frozen storage for the provider,” Lancaster said. “It opened some doors that may have been closed. With the approval of the refrigerated FluMist and expansion [to younger children], we have turned a corner with FluMist. We think there is an exciting future.”

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