Anti Swine Flu Vaccine
Should You Get the Swine Flu Vaccine?
Find answers to your questions about immunization against H1N1 (swine flu).
By Barbara Feder Ostrov
Medically Reviewed by Kevin O. Hwang, MD, MPH
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You and your family may get flu shots each year, but this fall, there’s something else to consider: Should you also be vaccinated for swine flu?
Here are some common questions and answers about the new vaccine for the H1N1 (swine flu) virus.
When will the vaccine be available?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved four H1N1 swine flu vaccines, available in shot or nasal spray form. Vaccine manufacturers are projecting that they will have 45 million doses ready in mid-October, with more doses available later. Most health care providers expect to get their allotments of vaccine from October to mid-November.
How is the vaccine being developed?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention isolated the H1N1 virus and modified it so that it can be used to manufacture hundreds of millions of doses of vaccine. Researchers tested different H1N1 vaccine candidates to examine their safety and effectiveness. The H1N1 vaccine will be manufactured in much the same way as is seasonal flu vaccine, although it will contain just one strain of the H1N1 virus — as compared with the three influenza strains typically used in the annual seasonal flu vaccine. Like the seasonal flu vaccine, the H1N1 vaccine will be made using eggs.
Is it safe?
Researchers believe the new H1N1 vaccine will have a safety profile similar to that of the seasonal flu vaccine, which has long been considered safe and effective.
Who should get it?
The CDC recommends that the following target groups, comprising about 159 million Americans, should get the H1N1 vaccine:
- Pregnant women
- People who live with or care for babies younger than 6 months
- Health care and emergency medical workers
- Children and young adults aged 6 months to 24 years
- Adults aged 25 to 64 who are at higher risk for H1N1 because of chronic illness or compromised immune systems
Once vaccination providers are meeting the demand for vaccine among these groups, the CDC recommends that vaccination be expanded to include everyone aged 25 to 64.
If there isn’t enough vaccine to go around, who should get it first?
If vaccine supplies are not adequate for people in the target groups, then the CDC recommends that the following groups should receive the H1N1 vaccine first:
- Pregnant women
- People who live with or care for infants younger than 6 months
- Health care and emergency medical workers with direct patient contact
- All children aged 6 months through 4 years
- Children aged 5 through 18 years with chronic medical conditions
It may surprise some that people aged 65 and older are not considered a high-priority group for H1N1 vaccine, although they are for the seasonal flu vaccine. Epidemiologists say that the risk for serious H1N1 infection among seniors is less than it is for younger people. That's because older people may have some pre-existing immunity to the H1N1 virus. This differs from what is seen normally with seasonal flu, which is riskier for older people. Once the younger age groups are adequately vaccinated against H1N1, the vaccine might be offered to those 65 and older, depending on local availability.
What will — and won’t — the H1N1 vaccine protect against?
The H1N1 vaccine will protect against the novel H1N1 swine flu virus currently circulating around the world. It will not protect against seasonal flu.
Should I get both the regular flu vaccine and the H1N1 vaccine?
Yes, if you are in one of the priority groups for the H1N1 vaccine listed above. It should be possible to get the seasonal flu vaccine and the H1N1 vaccine on the same day. However, because the seasonal flu vaccine will be available before the H1N1 vaccine, public health experts recommend getting the seasonal flu vaccine as soon as it is available.
What are the side effects of the H1N1 vaccine?
The FDA says that for the injected vaccine, soreness at the site of the injection is the most common side effect. Other side effects may include mild fever, body aches, headache, and fatigue for a few days after the inoculation. The most common side effects of the nasal spray vaccine include runny nose or nasal congestion for all ages, sore throats in adults, and fever in children 2 to 6 years old.
Who should NOT get the H1N1 vaccine?
People who are allergic to eggs, who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination, who have ever developed Guillain-Barré syndrome within six weeks of getting an influenza vaccine, and babies younger than 6 months. In addition, if you have a moderate to severe illness with fever, such as a common cold or traditional influenza, you should wait until you recover to get vaccinated.
Where can I get the H1N1 vaccine?
Each state will have its own H1N1 vaccine distribution plan. Your best bet is to call your health care provider or your local public health department.
Video: Flu Vaccine: Myths and Facts | UCLA Health
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