The story is about safety of inhaled flu vaccine based on adverse events voluntarily reported since it became available two years ago. This report could have better clarified that inhaled flu vaccine is targeted to populations that are not included in the CDC recommendations for getting flu shots. However, many individuals who do not meet CDC criteria get the flu shot because it is offered by their employer or they get it from a health care provider or other commercial source. The question is whether this article helps people to know whether they should prefer a flu shot or FluMist. Some ideas that were developed minimally or not at all in the story include the fact that more is known (benefits and risks) about flu shots than FluMist because shots have been around and used for years, and the uncertainty about potential harms of FluMist (because it uses live not killed virus). The story incorrectly implies that the adverse event rate is 460 out of 2.5 million doses, but it doesn’t mention that it’s hard to know whether there are many more adverse events (minor or major) that were simply not reported. Readers are left wondering how the authors arrived at the conclusion that the vaccine is safe.
No mention of costs or
last sentence of the article addresses possible benefits of the inhaled vaccine, stating that it is likely to be as effective
as the flu shot, but provides no evidence to confirm or support that.
Absolute numbers of reported adverse events are provided (total
number of events, number of serious events, and some specific examples, such as number of asthma events). However, key
points we don’t know are how many serious adverse events weren’t reported (reporting is voluntary) and how do these numbers
compare to adverse events with flu shots given in a similar population. While the former is not known, the latter could have
been found and reported and would have been more useful than the info provided.
The story reports number of adverse
events reported voluntarily with inhaled flu vaccine, leading government officials to claim it is safe. But the story did not
clarify how these data were evaluated and how these data translate to safety. Although intuitively the numbers might seem
low, what is safe and how is that defined? Since the flu shot is the standard of care, the true question is whether the
inhaled vaccine is safer and more effective than the flu shot, which would require a real study.
Independent corroboration is obtained by getting input from a physician not associated with the government
The story doesn’t let readers know that most doctors think the standard flu shot is the preferred treatment and
the main reason one would consider inhaled vaccine is if flu shots were not available.
Story accurately describes vaccine has been available in the U.S. for 2 years. However, the story
could have mentioned how many doses are available for the current year, since flu vaccine availability can change from
Story states inhaled vaccine
has been used for 2 years.