Allay parent’s concerns over safety of 2009 H1N1 flu vaccines
- Copyright © 2009 by the American Academy of Pediatrics
Since the 2009 H1N1 influenza (swine flu) virus was identified in April, millions have been infected, thousands have been hospitalized and hundreds have died from it. Vaccination is the best way to prevent influenza. Federal distribution of licensed 2009 H1N1 influenza monovalent vaccines began in early October.
This new vaccine has raised parental safety concerns, including, in recent modest sample sized studies, unknown side effects with possible long-term problems, riskiness for children, lack of need to protect against a mild type of influenza, thimerosal content and concern for Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS).
None of these safety concerns warrants not being immunized properly, as the safety of influenza vaccines is well-established. The 2009 H1N1 influenza monovalent vaccines are formulated and manufactured using the same process as seasonal ones. Several careful investigational trials in children, adults and pregnant women are being conducted to further evaluate safety and immunogenicity. Initial results suggest that this 2009 H1N1 influenza monovalent vaccine demonstrates a very similar safety profile to seasonal influenza vaccine. No vaccine-related serious adverse events have been reported.
In addition, the thimerosal included in some vaccine formulations is not associated with autism or other developmental conditions. GBS occurred in 1 out of every 100,000 recipients of the 1976 swine flu vaccine, but this rare event has not been substantiated in studies of influenza vaccines manufactured more recently. The risks of morbidity or mortality associated with influenza are far greater than the risk of GBS following vaccination.
In summary, pediatricians play an important role in educating parents and families about influenza and the vaccines that prevent it. Ensuring all children get both 2009 H1N1 influenza monovalent and seasonal influenza vaccines is critically important to prevent disease, reduce spread to others and limit the chances of a community influenza outbreak. Parents must have accurate information. Their doubts and worries can be addressed best by their pediatrician.
Drs. Bradley and Bernstein are members of the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases (COID). Dr. Bocchini is chair of COID.