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Should you vaccinate your child against the H1N1 virus?


H1N1 vaccines expected to arrive this week.

The furor surrounding the H1N1 virus continues to dominate not only the local and national media, but now—with the availability of the H1N1 flu vaccine just days away—the minds of many mothers as well.

States began submitting their H1N1 vaccine orders to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) on September 30th, 2009. As of October 1st, 47 United States jurisdictions had ordered a cumulative total of 1,378,200 doses of the nasal-spray Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine (LAIV) for H1N1 flu. The orders are expected to arrive at vaccination sites this week.

If you are a mother struggling with the decision of whether to vaccinate your child, it is important to educate yourself about the H1N1 threat and the 2009 vaccine. Before you make your decision, here is what you need to know:

Is the H1N1 vaccine safe?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), national medical regulatory authorities carefully examine the known and suspected risks and benefits of any vaccine prior to its licensing. Because the H1N1 virus is new, both non-clinical and clinical trials are being conducted to obtain critical information on immune response and safety. Outcomes of the trials completed to date suggest that the 2009 H1N1 vaccines are as safe as seasonal influenza vaccines.

What are the side effects of the H1N1 vaccine?

Side effects are expected to be similar to those observed with seasonal influenza vaccines. Common side effects include local reactions at the injection site (soreness, swelling, redness) and possibly some systemic reactions (fever, headache, muscle or joint aches). In almost all vaccine recipients, these symptoms are mild, self-limited and last one to two days.

Who should get vaccinated?

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has recommended that certain high-risk groups receive the 2009 H1N1 vaccine when it first becomes available. These target groups include pregnant women, people who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age, health care and emergency medical services personnel, persons between the ages of 6 months and 24 years old, and people between the ages of 25 through 64 who suffer from chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems.

How will the H1N1 vaccine be administered?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of one dose of H1N1 flu vaccine for persons 10 years of age and older. This is slightly different from the CDC’s recommendations for seasonal influenza vaccination, which states that children younger than 9 who are being vaccinated against influenza for the first time need to receive two doses 21 days apart. Infants younger than 6 months of age are too young to get the H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines.

Can the seasonal vaccine and the H1N1 vaccine be given at the same time?

The inactivated H1N1 vaccine can be administered at the same visit as any other vaccine, including the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV). The live H1N1 vaccine, on the other hand, can be administered at the same visit as any other live or inactivated vaccine EXCEPT the seasonal live attenuated influenza vaccine.

How will the vaccines be distributed?

According to the CDC, every state is developing a vaccine delivery plan. Vaccines will be available in a combination of settings such as vaccination clinics organized by local health departments, health care provider offices, schools, and other private settings, such as pharmacies and workplaces.

If you have specific questions about vaccinating your child, consult your pediatrician.

To find an H1N1 flu shot near you, click here.

For more information:  Center for Disease Control  I  World Health Organization  I

For more H1N1 information at  Infectious Disease Examiner  I  H1N1 Category Page