H1N1 Vaccine: Separating Myth from Reality

James Thompson MD Health Pro
  • H1N1 (Swine Flu) has not been headline news for several weeks but according to health experts getting the H1N1 vaccine should continue to be a high priority. Although it is estimated that over 60 million Americans have been vaccinated this represents less than half of those eligible. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary, Dr. Kathleen Sebelius warns that H1N1 is still very dangerous and recommends that Americans continue to take steps to protect themselves.


    The Centers for Disease Control has now recommended that H1N1 vaccination be opened up to all who want it (people 6 months or older) because vaccine supplies are abundant. Yet a significant number of people are hesitant to get vaccinated. How much are misconceptions playing a role in slowing down H1N1 vaccination?

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    Here are 5 myths about H1N1:


    •1)    "I  may get H1N1 flu by getting the vaccine."

    Several health related newsletters and articles have addressed this concern. The injected H1N1 vaccine does not contain any live virus particles and therefore cannot give you the flu. As stated above, over 60 million Americans have received H1N1 vaccine. Subsequent development of H1N1 as a result of getting vaccinated has not been reported. The nasal spray equivalent of the H1N1 vaccine is a live but attenuated (weakened in order to prevent ability to cause flu syndrome) flu particle which has also been safely given to millions of people throughout the United States.



    •2)    "I had a fever and headache 3 months ago so I don't need H1N1 vaccine because I probably had H1N1 already"

    Health experts recommend that adults and children that have previously had flu like illnesses (especially if not confirmed to be the result of H1N1) get the H1N1 flu vaccine in order to assure an adequate antibody response to H1N1.



    •3)    "I heard you might get this dreadful paralyzing disease because the H1N1 vaccine is the same as the vaccine from 1976 swine flu epidemic."

    The currently available swine flu vaccine being used in the U.S. is not the same as the vaccine from 1976. Techniques used for preparing the current H1N1 vaccine are the same as those used for preparing the seasonal flu vaccine. This differs from preparation techniques used in 1976. There have not been any case reports of Guillain Barre Syndrome, a potentially life threatening neurologic disease, in association with the current H1N1 vaccine. The vaccine has been well tolerated with rare reports of more than mild side effects.



    •4)    "The flu season is about over anyway. We are all safe now, since there are news reports that H1N1 has peaked."

    Health experts are concerned about future waves of H1N1 flu syndromes. This flu virus began last April and has not gone away. In contrast to seasonal flu virus which fades after March, H1N1 does not have the same profile. Furthermore H1N1 targets a younger population, compared to seasonal flu, which may foster more spread of the virus (people in school and in the work setting). If H1N1 mutates to a more lethal virus those that are unvaccinated will be more at risk for severe illness and death.


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    •5)    "I already had the seasonal flu vaccine. I don't need to get H1N1 because I should be protected"

    Seasonal flu vaccine will not protect you from H1N1. The two viruses are completely different from each other.


    H1N1 vaccination will not protect you against the seasonal flu. You need to have both vaccinations in order to achieve an antibody response to both flu viruses.



    It is important to realize, although currently not as widespread compared to last fall, H1N1 virus remains prevalent and potentially dangerous. High risk people who do not get the vaccine are at increased risk of severe illness and death if exposed to H1N1. Those who are not at high risk may also suffer a severe flu syndrome and as well spread the virus to others.


    What is your reason for not getting H1N1 vaccine?

Published On: January 27, 2010