Is the H1N1 Vaccine Safe Enough?

from a meeting of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee, Washington D.C.

Vaccine safety is a contentious topic, and it looks like the new vaccines against pandemic H1N1 flu will face some skepticism as they start to roll out to the American public in early October. This was clear in a brief but telling exchange during a meeting Sept. 16 of the NVAC, which advises the Health and Human Services department.

During a morning of presentations on the new vaccine, NVAC member Trish Parnell, executive director of Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases, told Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “I think you need to do a better job explaining to parents why [the H1N1 vaccine] is as safe [as other flu vaccines]. I’m going to vaccinate my kids, but frankly I don’t want to. I don’t feel good about it.” 

Dr. Anne Schuchat/photo courtesy CDC

Dr. Anne Schuchat/photo courtesy CDC

Dr. Schuchat, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, replied, “there is extensive experience using vaccines made exactly the way this [H1N1] vaccine is being made. We have hundreds of millions of doses of experience with the seasonal flu vaccine, and it’s very good, much better than other vaccines that have rare problems. Almost every year we change at least one strain in the seasonal flu vaccine, and the 2009 H1N1 vaccine is being made in an identical way. We also know about this disease, which can be serious. Based on what I know as a doctor, a public health person, and an aunt I strongly recommend the vaccine for the people we [the CDC] recommend it for. I think the risk of this disease is greater than the hypothetical risk of vaccines.”  

For the full story on the NVAC session, see my report for Elsevier Global Medical News.

—Mitchel Zoler, 11:50 PM on Sept. 16, Wynnewood, PA  (on Twitter @mitchelzoler)

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Filed under Allergy and Immunology, Family Medicine, Infectious Diseases, Internal Medicine, Primary care

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