Now that the 2009 H1N1 swine flu vaccine is officially approved by the FDA and the first doses have been delivered, it is time for parents to review the guidelines on who should get one.
It is also time to review the concerns that some parents may have about the swine flu vaccine and that may keep them from getting their kids vaccinated.
As many parents are satisfied that the 2009 H1N1 swine flu vaccine is safe, the biggest controversy may end up being the limited amounts of vaccine that are available. As of mid-October, only about 12 million doses were available for ordering, which is about 10% of the expected vaccine that was to be available at this time, when forty-one states are seeing widespread flu activity.
Swine Flu Vaccine Recommendations
The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that certain high risk groups get the 2009 H1N1 swine flu vaccine, including all children from 6 months through 18 years of age.
Also included in these recommendations for the swine flu vaccine are:
- Pregnant women
- Household contacts and caregivers for children younger than 6 months of age
- Healthcare and emergency medical services personnel
- Young adults 19 through 24 years of age
- Persons aged 25 through 64 years who have health conditions associated with higher risk of medical complications from influenza
Lastly, once there is enough swine flu vaccine, everyone from the ages of 25 through 64 years can get vaccinated too.
Keep in mind that children nine years of age and younger will need to get two doses of the 2009 H1N1 swine flu vaccine.
Swine Flu Vaccine Safety
Is the swine flu vaccine safe?
Although the 2009 H1N1 swine flu vaccine is a 'new' vaccine, it is important to note that it is basically a flu vaccine and the FDA states that it was 'manufactured using the same approved processes used to produce the seasonal influenza vaccines.'
According to the CDC, is expected to 'have a similar safety profile as seasonal flu vaccines, which have a very good safety track record.'
The 2009 H1N1 swine flu vaccine that is going to be used in the United States does not contain any new adjuvants, which are vaccine additives that can help them to work better. It was the possibility that the 2009 H1N1 swine flu vaccine was going to contain some new adjuvants which made people originally think this was a 'new' vaccine and created some of the controversy about it.
There are also many different forms of the 2009 H1N1 swine flu vaccine, which may satisfy the different needs of some parents, including a:
- swine flu shot (multi-dose vials) with the preservative thimerosal (inactivated flu virus)
- swine flu shot without the preservative thimerosal (inactivated flu virus)
- swine flu nasal spray (live, attenuated flu virus) for healthy children ages two years old and older
It is likely going to be best to simply get the 2009 H1N1 swine flu vaccine that is available for your kids though, instead of waiting for a particular version of it if the others aren't yet available.
Swine Flu Vaccine Side Effects
The 2009 H1N1 swine flu vaccine has 'been well tolerated' in clinical studies according to the FDA. Possible side effects will likely be similar to the seasonal flu vaccine side effects, including:
- mild fever
- muscle aches
- fainting (mainly adolescents)
- soreness, redness, or swelling at the injection site (flu shot)
- runny nose or congestion (nasal spray flu vaccine)
And as with other vaccines and medical products, the FDA states that 'unexpected or rare serious adverse events may occur,' including severe (life-threatening) allergic reactions.
What about Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), the rare neurological disease that was found to be slightly more common in people who got the 1976 swine flu vaccine? The CDC states that most studies have either showed no extra risk of GBS from flu vaccines or only a slight risk (1 additional person out of 1 million vaccinated people), but no where near the rates that were seen in 1976 (1 additional case per 100,000 people who received the swine flu vaccine). So worry about GBS isn't a good reason to avoid the 2009 H1N1 swine flu vaccine, especially since the 1976 swine flu vaccine was manufactured using different methods than current flu vaccines.
What You Need To Know
- As of December 10, over 76 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine had been shipped to doctors and clinics, with more vaccine being shipped each week.
- All children between the ages of 6 months and 18 years should get both the seasonal flu vaccine and the 2009 H1N1 swine flu vaccine.
- As with the seasonal flu vaccine, children who are allergic to eggs should not routinely get the 2009 H1N1 swine flu vaccine, especially if they have a severe (life-threatening) allergy to chicken eggs.
- The 2009 H1N1 swine flu vaccine has been purchased by the federal government and is being distributed via a centralized distribution center to local health departments, healthcare provider offices, schools, and pharmacies, etc.
- You can get the 2009 H1N1 swine flu vaccine and a seasonal flu vaccine at the same time, except that you can't get the nasal spray version of each vaccine at the same time.
CDC. 2009 H1N1 Vaccination Recommendations. Accessed September 2009. http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/vaccination/acip.htm
CDC. General Questions and Answers on 2009 H1N1 Influenza A Vaccine Safety. Accessed September 2009. http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/vaccination/vaccine_safety_qa.htm
FDA. Influenza A (H1N1) 2009 Monovalent Vaccines Questions and Answers. Accessed September 2009. http://www.fda.gov/BiologicsBloodVaccines/Vaccines/QuestionsaboutVaccines/ucm182335.htm