Sunday, October 25, 2009

H1N1 Vaccine

Dear Lisa,

I am not sure if I should give the new H1N1 vaccine to my children. Is it safe? What are the side effects? If I do decide to give it to them, where can I get it?

“Confused about H1N1 Vaccine”

Dear “Confused about H1N1 Vaccine”,

Unfortunately, the novel H1N1 influenza virus is disproportionally affecting the young. Since April 2009, CDC has received reports of 95 laboratory-confirmed pediatric 2009 H1N1 deaths and another 7 pediatric deaths that were laboratory confirmed as influenza, but where the flu virus subtype was not determined(1). This season scientists expect both 2009 H1N1 flu and seasonal flu to cause more people to get sick than a regular flu season. Flu activity is now widespread in 46 states and visits to doctors for influenza-like-illness nationwide are increasing. At this early stage of the season, flu activity is already higher than what is seen at the peak of many regular flu seasons. In addition, flu-related hospitalizations and deaths continue to go up nation-wide and are above what is expected for this time of year.

The best tool we have for protecting our children and preventing influenza is vaccination. Children need to receive both the regular seasonal influenza vaccine, as well as the 2009 H1N1 vaccine. Flu vaccines are expected to start working about two weeks after administration. At that time the body develops antibodies that provide protection against influenza virus infections.

Many parents have questions about how the 2009 H1N1 vaccine was made. The same manufacturers who produce seasonal flu vaccines are producing 2009 H1N1 vaccines for use in the United States. The vaccines are being made in the same way that the seasonal vaccines are made (2). The 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccines are expected to have similar safety profiles as seasonal flu vaccines, which have very good safety track records. Over the years, hundreds of millions of Americans have received seasonal flu vaccines.

The most common side effects following flu vaccinations are mild. These symptoms may include soreness, redness, swelling and tenderness at injection site, low grade fever, or aches. If these problems occur, they typically begin soon after the shot, are usually mild, and usually last only 1 to 2 days. Almost all people who receive influenza vaccine have no serious problems from it. However, on rare occasions, flu vaccination can cause serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions.

There are two kinds of 2009 H1N1 vaccines being produced; the 2009 H1N1 "flu shot” and the 2009H1N1 nasal spray flu vaccine. The 2009 H1N1 “flu shot” is an inactivated vaccine which means it contains a killed virus. It is given with a needle, usually in the arm. The flu shot is approved for use in people 6 months of age and older, for people with chronic medical conditions and pregnant women. The 2009 H1N1 nasal spray flu vaccine is made with live, weakened viruses. The 2009 H1N1 nasal spray flu vaccine is approved for use in healthy people 2 years to 49 years of age who are not pregnant. The nasal spray vaccine for use in the United States is being made by MedImmune, the same company that makes the seasonal nasal spray vaccine called “FluMist®.”

The viruses in the nasal-spray vaccine are weakened and do not cause severe symptoms often associated with influenza illness. In clinical studies, transmission of vaccine viruses to close contacts has occurred only rarely. The side effects from the nasal spray may be different from side effects from the shot. In children the side effects from the nasal spray can include; runny nose, wheezing, headache, vomiting, muscle aches and fever. In adults the side effects from the nasal spray can include; runny nose, headache, sore throat and cough.

The first doses of vaccines which protect against 2009 H1N1 influenza are starting to become available and more doses will be shipped in the upcoming weeks. You can call your local health department and they should be able to tell you where flu clinics will be held in your area. You can also search where you can get your H1N1 vaccine by logging on to the State H1N1 Resource Center / Flu Shot Locator at

I hope your family stays healthy this flu season.

What to do if your family develops Influenza

Track incidence of H1N1 influenza

(1)Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2009 H1N1 Flu: Situation Update. Available at Accessed October 24, 2009.
(2)Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccine Safety. Available at Accessed October 24, 2009.

Lisa-ann Kelly R.N., P.N.P.,C.
Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

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