Brittney Burns – Staff Writer

Recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) left the health department questioning their own flu vaccine policies last week during the month meeting of the Macon County Board of Health.

For the 2016-2017 season, CDC recommends use of the flu shot (inactivated influenza vaccine or IIV) and the recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV). The nasal spray flu vaccine (live attenuated influenza vaccine or LAIV) should not be used during 2016-2017. To reflect the elimination of nasal spray from the 2016-17 flu season, Macon County Department of Public Health Director Jim Bruckner presented the board with a change to their existing personnel policy regarding flu vaccines to eliminate the nasal spray option.

As it stands, the board of health requires that all employees who have direct contact with patients receive a flu vaccine. If an employee elects not to receive a flu vaccine, that employee is required to wear a mask at work. Last year, four employees opted out of receiving the vaccine.

While the nasal spray will not be available for employees in the coming year, the option will not be offered at all by the health department. According to Bruckner, nasal spray vaccines won’t even be manufactured this year.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to not recommend its use.

The nasal spray  vaccine is generally offered to people ages 2 to 49 and accounted for fewer than 10 percent of all flu vaccinations. According to the CDC, new research showed the spray is less effective than the standard shot. The flu shot was 63 percent effective in people ages 2 to 17 during the 2015-16 flu season. The nasal spray was only three percent.

Board members showed concern that eliminating the nasal spray would not only impact the employees who might prefer the spray to the shot, but that the public, specifically children in the community would be impacted.

Bruckner noted that the number of employees who elected to use the spray over the shot were in the single digits and the impact would be minimal and even if the health department decided to offer the spray against CDC recommendations, it wouldn’t be possible as it isn’t being manufactured this year.

The board of health updates their vaccine policy annually and changes are made to reflect the most current recommendations. Taking the spray out this year, to maybe add it next year, seemed unwarranted by some board members.

In order for the board of health to change its policy regarding the flu vaccine, a motion would have been needed from a board member and then seconded by another before the board could vote. The proposed changes didn’t receive a motion  so the issue regarding the flu vaccine will be on the agenda next month.