From: Village Pediatrics <>
Subject: H1N1 Vaccine Myths and Facts
Dear Village Pediatric Parents,

While our office has been fortunate to receive the H1N1 vaccine, our staff has been trying hard to keep up with the phone calls asking about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.  The following will hopefully answer some of your questions, and the websites at the end should provide you with plenty of information to help you make a decision about whether to vaccinate your child.  If after reading this information, you still have questions, please call the office and we will be happy to help you out.  And YES, Dr. Jenn and Dr. Nikki have both gotten the vaccine, and been comfortable enough to administer it to their children.

H1N1 Vaccine Myths and Facts:  What every Parent Needs to Know:

1.     This is a "new, untested" vaccine-  Despite the uniqueness of each influenza season (and the H1N1 strain is a new one), the manner in which influenza vaccines are produced remains essentially the same from year to year.  However, the vaccines are altered somewhat to best respond to each season's expected strains.  This is like baking muffins- you use the same mix, the same oven and the same temperature, then decide whether to add chocolate chips, or blueberries, or nuts...
The flu vaccines that contain strain changes, such as the H1N1 vaccine, are actually tested the most.  The H1N1 vaccine was tested in thousands of adults and children prior to general distribution, and has thus far been safe and without significant side effects.

2.     Wasn't there a "Swine Flu" vaccine in the 1970s that caused Guillain- Barre syndrome?  NO.  While GBS, a neurological condition typified by extreme muscle weakness, is an extremely rare side effect of the influenza vaccine (approximately one in a million vaccinations), there was no proven association with the flu vaccine of 1976.  Since 1976 there have been no other influenza vaccinations linked to an increased risk of GBS.   The 1976 flu was also a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT flu strain than the current "swine flu."  The risk of your child suffering severe illness or death from influenza (seasonal or swine) is much greater than the risk that they will suffer from a side effect of the vaccine.  While all vaccines carry risk, there is also a significant risk to NOT vaccinating.
3.     My child already had H1N1, they don't need the vaccine-  not necessarily so.  The CDC has found that only 1/3 of presumed cases of H1N1 are actually true swine flu based on laboratory testing.  If your child has tested positive for influenza A on a rapid flu test, it is likely they have had the swine flu, however there is no danger in giving the vaccine to a child who has already had the illness. 
4.     There is thimerosal in the vaccine, isn't this dangerous?-   While some of the H1N1 vaccines do contain thimerosal (a preservative), this additive has been found on repeated testing to be harmless.  The individually packaged doses do not contain thimerosal, nor does the FluMist.  Some of the child/adult doses (from multidose vials) do contain the preservative.  A comparison:
*  Children 6 months to under 3 years old, Sanofi multidose flu vaccine: 0.0125 mg ethyl mercury (thimerosal)
*  Children 3 years old and up, Sanofi multidose flu vaccine: 0.025 mg ethyl mercury (thimerosal)
  * By comparison, 1 liter of breast milk contain 0.015 mg methylmercury and a 5 oz can of tunafish has 0.115 mg of methylmercury. Both contain more mercury!
Our current doses of vaccine DO NOT contain thimerosal- they are all individually packaged.
5.     Who needs 2 doses?-  Children less than 10 years of age need 2 doses of H1N1 vaccine, spaced 28 days apart, to develop the ideal immune response.  However, 1 dose is better than none. For seasonal flu vaccine, children under the age of 9 need two doses of the vaccine if they have never had a flu vaccine previously.
6.     Can my children get the seasonal and H1N1 vaccine at the same time? - H1N1 and seasonal FluMists cannot be given simultaneously.  There needs to be a minimum of 14 days (and ideally 28 days) between doses of these live vaccines.  However, the injectable versions of both vaccines can be given simultaneously and one FluMist and one injection can be given at the same time.  An injectable seasonal or H1N1 flu vaccine can be given at ANY TIME after a FluMist version of the other vaccine.
7.     How long does it take for immunity to develop after the vaccine?- typically about 2 weeks is needed to develop antibodies to a vaccine.  Children under age 10 who have received one dose of vaccine will hopefully develop some immunity, though 2 doses are ideal. 
8.     Have there been cases of H1N1 influenza in immunized patients?-  it is too early to know how protective the vaccine has been, however the vaccine strain is a perfect match to the circulating virus.  Many patients who have received the vaccine have also been simultaneously exposed to the virus, so we are seeing some children develop the illness soon after immunization.  Remember that the ultimate goal of the vaccine is to prevent serious illness and death- and the  flu vaccine is typically extremely effective at this.
9.     Can you get the flu from the vaccine?- NO!!!  The live, weakened virus found in the FluMist vaccine cannot replicate at body temperature.  In the cool environment of the nasal passages the vaccine strain of virus can stimulate an immune response (and sometimes result in congestion) but the virus cannot live or replicate in the body elsewhere.  Many people find they get achy or ill from the injectable flu vaccine, but this represents the body's immune response to the vaccine.  There is no live virus in the injectable vaccine.
For more information, please visit the following websites:

Stay healthy!
Dr. Jenn and Dr. Nikki

swine flu
156 Kings Highway North
Westport, Connecticut 06880
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