At my practice, patients are already asking about the safety of H1N1 (Swine) flu vaccine – event though it’s not likely to be out for a month or two. Here’s what I am telling them.
Most patients say they are worried about one of three things:
I’ve blogged on the safety of thimerosal in the past.
However, not to worry, as both the seasonal and Swine flu vaccines will come in versions that don’t contain thimerosal.
These chemical additives can boost immune response … and thereby allow using lower doses to stretch the vaccine supply. However, the Swine flu vaccine will not contain adjuvants. But versions with adjuvants are being tested in case they are needed.
Guillain-Barre syndrome and death
The Swine flu vaccine from 30 years ago was linked to a small increased risk of Guillain-Barre. Prescriber’s Letter, written by a highly respected group of Doctors of Pharmacy says, “Tell patients that an increased risk is unlikely with the new Swine vaccine. The new one is manufactured just like seasonal flu vaccine … and is very different from the old swine flu vaccine.”
Patients are also asking if the Swine flu vaccine will be available in a nasal mist. Indeed! MedImmune is producing a nasal Swine flu vaccine … similar to FluMist. Expect it to be an alternative to the injectable Swine flu vaccine for healthy people ages 2 to 49.
As to the seasonal flu vaccine. We will start giving it tomorrow (August 31, 2009) The CDC is recommending that doctors start giving the seasonal flu vaccine as soon as it’s available …to free up time to give the H1N1 vaccine later. The CDC says, “Reassure people that immunity will last the whole flu season … even if they are vaccinated in September.”
Also, the CDC says, “Tell people NOT to believe rumors that the seasonal vaccine helps protect against H1N1 flu. The strains are different.”
Here are other blogs in this series you might find useful: