Flu myths: Dispelling the myths associated with live attenuated influenza vaccine

Pritish K. Tosh, Thomas G. Boyce, Gregory A. Poland

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV), commercially available since 2003, has not gained widespread acceptance among prescribes. This underuse can be traced to several misperceptions and fears regarding LAIV. This review examines both the facts (safety, immunogenicity, and effectiveness) and the most pervasive myths about LAIV. Live attenuated influenza vaccine is a safe, highly immunogenic, and effective vaccine. It is well tolerated; only mild and transient upper respiratory infection symptoms occur with LAIV vs placebo, even in higher-risk patients with asthma or the early stages of human immunodeficiency virus. It is immunogenic, especially in induction of mucosal immunity. In certain populations, LAIV is as effective as, and in some cases more effective than, inactivated influenza in preventing influenza infection. It appears to be more effective in preventing influenza infection than trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine when the vaccine virus strain does not closely match that of the circulating wild-type virus. Many myths and misperceptions about the vaccine exist, foremost among them the myth of genetic reversion. Independent mutation in 4 gene segments would be required for reversion of the vaccine strain of influenza virus to a wild type, an unlikely and as yet unobserved event. Although shedding of vaccine virus is common, transmission of vaccine virus has been documented only in a single person, who remained asymptomatic. In the age groups for which it is indicated, LAIV is a safe and effective vaccine to prevent influenza infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-84
Number of pages8
JournalMayo Clinic proceedings
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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