Hold That Needle

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Flu shots may become a thing of the past thanks to an experimental influenza vaccine which can be administered as a nasal spray. After giving 1,602 children two doses of either the real vaccine or a placebo last year, doctors from the National Institutes of Health and the biotechnology firm Aviron said today that only 1 percent of the 1,070 children who received the real spray caught the flu. By contrast, 18 percent of the 532 children who got the fake spray got sick. Overall, doctors involved in the 30-year study said the vaccine was effective against both the A and B strains of last year's flu virus and showed no noticeable side effects. Prepared from weakened influenza viruses rather than killed viruses found in traditional flu shots, the vaccine may be available in 1999, good news for squeamish folks who fear the needles more than the virus.