Swine Flu Vaccine: One Doctor's Opinion

swine flu guide

h1n1 vaccineAll this week we've been talking to CafeMoms about whether or not their family will receive the H1N1 vaccine to prevent the swine flu.

AmyTuteurMD, an obstetrician gynecologist and mom of four, disagreed with some of the information in our posts. She runs AskDr.Amy.com, Open Salon, and The Skeptical OB, writing primarily about childbirth, home birth, and alternative health. I asked her to share her thoughts with us.


CafeMom: Will you and your children be getting the H1N1 vaccine?

At the moment, I am not eligible to get the vaccine because I am not in a high risk group. When it becomes widely available, I will get it. My children will be getting the vaccine.

Many moms are concerned about both the safety and efficacy of the H1N1 vaccine. Can you speak to this?

As far as efficacy and safety are concerned, it is important to keep in mind that the H1N1 vaccine is made exactly the same way as the seasonal flu vaccine.

There are many different influenza viruses and they are all capable of changing rapidly. That's why a new batch of seasonal flu vaccine is produced each year targeted to the strains that are expected to be common in the coming season. Typically preparation of the batch begins as one flu season ends since it takes so long to produce it.

Each batch is based on the flu strains common in the last season and flu trends around the world. Of course there is always a possibility that a new strain will arise between the time that the batch is started and the vaccine is ready, but typically new strains are similar to old ones and although the seasonal flu vaccine is not perfect, it is usually good enough to get the job done.

H1N1 flu was identified after this year's batch of seasonal flu vaccine was in production. Had it been found earlier it would have been added to this year's batch. H1N1 is not more lethal than the typical seasonal flu, but it is unusual in that it is particularly deadly in children and pregnant women. The CDC could have opted to ignore it, since it was too late to put it into the seasonal vaccine. However, because the virus was unusually harmful to children and pregnant women, the decision was made to begin another batch of flu vaccine targeted to H1N1.

So the H1N1 vaccine is just like the seasonal flu vaccine except that it is directed against a new strain of influenza. There is no reason to believe that the efficacy and side effects will be any different than the seasonal flu vaccine since it is prepared in exactly the same way. Indeed, to date there have been no reports of unusual reactions to it.

The bottom line is that H1N1 was identified too late to put it into the seasonal flu vaccine, otherwise it would have been put in. The new strain was so dangerous, however, that the CDC decided to begin a new, additional batch in order to offer protection against H1N1.

For more information on H1N1 vaccine recommendations, please check out AmyTuteurMD's piece, What Would You Do If You Were the CDC?.

Thank you to AmyTuteurMD for sharing this info with us!

Will you get the H1N1 vaccine?


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