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Pandemic Flu

Pandemic Flu - Vaccine

08/31/2009

Question:

My husband has a friend who received a swine flu vaccine in the mid 1970s, had a reaction to it, and to this day the friend has a problem walking. As a result, my husband is not interested in having us vaccinate our children with this new swine flu - H1N1- vaccine, as he thinks the risk is too high for other complications. Are the vaccines from the 1970s and the one to be released later this fall the same? If not, how safe can we feel as parents that the latest vaccine which is seemingly being rushed through the clinical trial process in order to protect the population as soon as possible is being adequately tested to protect our children and won`t have side effects which could be a greater problem than the flu itself?

Answer:

The vaccines from the 1970s and the H1N1 vaccines to be released later this fall are not the same. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is especially recommending H1N1 influenza vaccine for pregnant women, people who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age, healthcare and emergency medical services personnel, persons between the ages of 6 months and 24 years old, and people ages 25 through 64 years of age who are at higher risk for novel H1N1 because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems. Although no medication is 100% safe, the H1N1 vaccine is expected to prevent H1N1 influenza in most vaccine recipients without causing severe side effects. You are correct that many cases of the H1N1 influenza to date have been mild. It appears that when the H1N1 influenza causes pneumonia, severe illness and deaths have occurred.

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Response by:

John  Andrews, MD, MPH John Andrews, MD, MPH
Assistant Senior Vice President Medical Center
Director University Health Services
University of Cincinnati