Should I Get H1N1 Vaccine For My Kids?

by Mike Holman

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Please note that Mr. Cheap wrote a very good post yesterday about H1N1 so check it out if you haven’t already – a lot of great comments.

H1N1 (Swine flu) vaccine hysteria has hit my city in a big way – last week there were people lining up for 6 hours to get shots for their kids and presumably themselves as well.  Since the initial clinics the vaccine has only been allowed for high risk groups:

  • Pregnant women.
  • Children aged 6 months to 5 years.
  • People under 65  with chronic conditions.
  • People who live with infants under 6 months and/or with immunocompromised people.
  • Healthcare workers.

I personally haven’t been that worried about Swine flu so far this year but once the vaccine became available it seemed that the public awareness and concern went up a notch or two.  I know lots of my friends who have kids are worried about the flu and naturally are also worried about the vaccine.  Is it safe?  Will there be side effects?  Will the needle hurt?  (ok, that was my concern).  Here are some vaccine myths.

I think we are going to get the vaccine for our kids – as I read recently, while there might be some risk from the vaccine, it is dwarfed by the risk from the flu itself.  The analogy they used was seatbelts – in some cases seatbelts (and airbags) do more damage than good but overall your odds of survival in a car crash are far better if you are wearing a seatbelt.

What do you think?  Should everyone line up for 6 hours to get a shot?  Are you going to wait a few weeks to let things settle down?  Are you going to avoid the shot altogether?

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1 The Financial Blogger

I consider getting the vaccine for my kids but not by waiting 7 hours outside with them. this is a good plan to get the flu anyway!

They started the vaccine yesterday in my city. People went at 2 AM (yup 2 AM in the middle of the night) to get in line in order to get the vaccine at 10AM !?!

People are definitely crazy…. wasn’t Toronto who was suppose to lose 50% of its population in the SARS a few years ago?

Since we didn’t have the end of the world predicted by economists and financial analysts, newspapers have to find another one ;-)

2 The Financial Blogger

hey Mike,

I read that you were able to get the vaccine directly from your doctor, can you ship 4 needles to Montreal? ;-)

Family doctors are like secured investment at 10% in Montreal, they are a myth and they surely don’t exist!

3 guinness416

I agree with TFB, lining up for 6 hours in the dark, cold and rain seems like a recipe for getting pretty sick. I thought they copped on and went to a ticket system by now though?

Was hoping you were going to comment on the vaccination of the Calgary Flames and family. We certainly shouldn’t be wasting any vaccine on the Leafs!

4 Alexandra

I was one of the people who lined up and after 7 hours, got the flu shot for myself and my daughter. I’m glad I did it – I am leaving for Mexico on Tuesday (next week) and the last thing I want to do is be stuck for five hours in a sealed tin cannister with recirculated air and rarely cleaned surfaces with people who may or may not be sick.

If anything I have peace of mind. But waiting for 7 hours in the cold with a 2-year-old was NOT fun. Thanks goodness she had lots of other kids to play with the whole time.

5 Financial Samurai

It’s a tough call. I would say definitely YES if you can afford it (wait/time) and have access to it.

I got my flu shot last month, and I wonder if getting another one is effective? Who knows for sure what the body will do!

FS

6 Nurseb911

I’ve been fielding hundreds of questions from parents over the past two weeks on H1N1, vaccines and symptoms. What I always suggest to all parents is to weigh the risks of getting the shot vs. not getting it.

There will always be critics of anything, but informing yourself through reputable sources is the only way you’ll get the right answers. If you have an opportunity to protect your children with limited to no risk why would a parent choose not to because of what opinions non-healthcare professionals give on the web, in the media and through conversations?

I received the immunization (as a RN) for a few reasons.
1. I have no desire or intention of taking this bug home to my fiancee or family after being exposed to it as much as I have over the past two weeks.
2. The risks of getting the shot were much less vs. the risks of not getting it
3. I’ve seen enough individuals my age intubated in the ICU because they caught this bug, didn’t rest or stay home and continued to go to work, play sports, etc and are now very very sick.

Mike (or Cheap) – if you want to do a Q&A on this topic I’d be more than happy to supply some answers. For legal reasons I can’t give out advice, but I can certainly help with the misinformation issues that seem to be going around.

7 Four Pillars

FB – I’ll see what I can do about sending some vaccine your way.

Guinness – It’s not fair that the Flames get their shots – especially since they are not in the high risk group. I agree – no point in wasting the vaccine on the Leafs. :)

Alexandra – Good job on the waiting. It occurred to me that there would be lots of kids there so it might actually be fun (for a while).

FS – Yes, it’s a tough call.

Nurse – Thanks for the viewpoint from “inside the lines”.

8 Dana

This has been a heated debate in our inner circle for sure. The majority of our friends and family have been taking a wait-and-see approach.

Those that we know who have been infected with H1N1 have all recovered (more quickly it seems than with the regular flu) and not had any complications or secondary infections (though they also had no known underlying conditions).

That being said, my son is 3 and has an underlying respitory condition that causes him to have a strong asthmatic reaction to respitory viruses, so we have decided to vaccinate him and he will be getting jabbed at 12noon today. We decided not to wait in line with hundreds of people for hours on end at the clinic as that would expose him to more potential germs than keeping him at home until our doctor could vaccinate him.

I have a lot of reservations about this vaccine (especially the adjuvant).

My daughter is 7 and healthy, and I had not planned to get her vaccinated, but she wants the vaccine. As she is not ‘high priority’ it is unlikely that the Dr. will give it to her, but she is coming with us anyway as she wants to ask. The nurse at the office said that I am considered high priority since I am my son’s primary care giver. I will offer to donate my dose to my daughter since she sits at school all day soaking up germs and bringing them home. She is more likely to come in contact with this virus than I am.

When I was a kid, if some bug or illness was going around, we didn’t panic like this. In fact,when one family on our street got the chicken pox, the other families all sent their kids over there to play so we could all get infected and get it over with!

9 David

Alexandra be aware that unless you had the vaccine shot about 2 weeks ago, you are still susceptible to catching H1N1. It takes 10-14 days for the vaccine to actually give you any protection. Also, from what I have heard, there is more regular flu going around at the moment than H1N1. People seem to think that once that get this vaccine they are not going to get sick at all.

10 The Financial Blogger

@guinness416 I think we should spare some shots and skip a few Canadiens players as well…who needs Hal Gill anyway?

11 Four Pillars

David – good point about the waiting period. I remember reading that it takes a while for the vaccine to work.

I’m not sure that the vaccine is 100% effective either – if I’m not mistaken the normal flu shot is supposed to reduce the odds of getting the flu. It’s doesn’t rule out the possibility of still getting it.

I’m not saying it’s a waste of time – just that it’s not an instantaneus cure-all which is why I can’t be bothered waiting 6+ hours for it.

FB – I thought the Quebec gov’t had their own vaccine for the Habs?

12 Alexandra

Hi David,

Yes, they say it takes about two weeks for the body to fully create the antibodies against the virus, but by the time I board it will have already been 10 days – better some protection than none.

And yes, I know that I can still get sick from seasonal flu, although I had not heard it was going around right now – it tends to show up later in the season.

I don’t know of anyone who thinks that the H1N1 vaccine is a wonder drug that will stop all sickness. Even though the media is acting like everyone is running around in a senseless panic, everyone I talk to seems well aware of the pros and cons of the vaccine and has weighed these in terms of their own family needs.

13 Sampson

Some info from a fella that makes antibodies (for research) -

—Vaccine Efficacy—
The specific strain of virus (H1N1) is known so the vaccines WILL be effective. This is unlike seasonal flu vaccines where producers have to predict which strains will be most prevalent in a given year. In years where vaccines are not effective (like last year), its because they guessed wrong.

—Adjuvants—
This is an oil and vitamin mixture and is an inert substance. When injected into a muscle, it promotes white blood cells to enter the area, thus resulting a larger response against the killed virus particles. Complications arising from vaccines are very very seldom due to adjuvants.

—Egg Allergies—
This is of biggest concern since the vaccine is made in chicken eggs. Be cautious if you have egg allergies.

—10-14 day Period—
This is the time it takes to mount a full antibody response. So yes, after 10-14 days, if you contact the virus, you will not get sick. It takes that long for the body to get to the later stages of immune response. If you get the vaccine, then are exposed and contract the virus, you’ll already have a head start, so its a battle of time, the virus grows in your body, but its already on its way to producing antibodies to fight the infection. Net result – likely a lower viral load and milder flu symptoms.

14 Nurseb911

Dana,

“I have a lot of reservations about this vaccine (especially the adjuvant).”

What are your concerns? Would you like some references (or explanation) on how adjuvants work in vaccines?

15 Jess

CBSNews disturbing findings that seasonal flu shot are made more susceptible to H1N1 swine flu

http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2009/09/23/flu-shots-h1n1-seasonal.html

16 Stompie

We taking the wait and see approach currently.

My main concerns are that from my reading (mainly CBC) it appears that
1) My infant will get the same dose as I would which with the mercury seems excessive considering I have 7 times the body mass to deal with absorbing this toxic material. I realise sea food has mercury in it but she isn’t eating that yet either
2) Their haven’t been many studies on the effectiveness of the vaccine and the majority of the studies that have been done are for adults. It’s suggested in the article below we won’t know the effectiveness from the Canadian study until next year, so people are waiting in the cold for 6hrs for something we aren’t sure is going to work. (Sounds like a good way to catch the flu)
http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2009/10/20/h1n1-vaccine-clinical-trials-canada.html
3) It also seems like the “experts” are concerned about the lack of information for the non-typical adult test group.
http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2009/09/17/h1n1-vaccine-babies.html

I’m not against this if it prevents people from dieing and I’d love it if someone can correct anything I’ve got wrong. It just seems like their is conflicting information and not enough research on the stuff I care about, which is my infant, to make an informed decision.

17 Four Pillars

Stompie – I’m not sure how valid your concern about the mercury is. If the amount given to the baby is small enough to be safe then the fact that you are getting the same amount is irrelevant.

Just because a certain amount of mercury might be safer for you doesn’t mean it’s unsafe for the baby.

18 Jess

I survive from H1N1 twice by doing it naturally. Last July 09 when I was at the North and Last week of Oct. All I did was natural. I recover fast even my kids age 10 and 7. For simple reason, our body has its own antibodies. All you need to do is give your body a weapon to fight against the viruses. You dont go to war without a weapon! Second idea is to drink a lot of fluids so it washed it off. 3rd idea is to take a lot of rest. You dont want your body busy with other stuff while they should be fighting off the viruses.

Heres how I do it. First Gargling with salt and 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar will relieve the throat infection. Eat a lot of veggies and fruits. We most eat Papaya, kiwi, and grape fruit for Vitamin C. Eat Chicken soup! Mix Lemon, maple syrup, and Cayenne pepper and drink it early in the morning and 3 times a day. For cough we apply Organic Apple Cider Vinegar two teaspoons every 2 to 4 hours. Oregano oil for throat and cough. Cut Ginger and suck it like a candy for hacking cough. We also take Coconut Virgin Oil for anti-viral. Cut garlic for fever. For supplements, we have multi vitamins, vitamin c 1000 mg. I also added Vitamin B-complex, flax seed oil, omega 3-6-9, calcium magnesium for myself. I double my supplement intake when I am sick. We keep drinking tea with honey.

By doing this, it only last 1 to 2 days. You can do your own research by googling the benefits of each one of them such as lemon, garlic, ginger, coconut oil, cayenne pepper, apple cider vinegar, honey and so on.

19 Dana

Stompie: Mercury is used in vaccines as a preservative. I was told by a medical professional that there is no mercury in the H1N1 vaccine (one of the reasons the vaccine has a short shelf life). Like you, I am aware of the issues around mercury, but I am not sure it is in this vaccine.

20 Potato

A small amount of thimerosal is in the vaccine we have (Arepanrix), other health units may be different (esp. the version in single-use pre-loaded syringes). From Health Canada:

The Arepanrix vaccine has 2.5 micrograms organic mercury (Hg) per 0.5mL dose.

Tuna can contain over 0.5 ppm of mercury, so 5 g of tuna would give you as much mercury as the shot — about 1/30 of a can.

The vaccine in no way represents a medically significant dose of mercury, even for children. [I am obviously not a medical doctor, but anyone that seriously thinks a guy named Potato on the internet is dispensing medical advice has more money than brains if they come a-suin'. Aren't disclaimers fun?]

As for waiting on more studies, unfortunately that’s the nature of uncertainty: we have evidence in trials that the vaccine does stimulate the production of antibodies. We know from other vaccines prepared similarly that they tend to be safe and about 90+% effective. We can surmise that this one will be similar. But we won’t be certain of that until the opportunity for a timely vaccination program has long passed. Not being sure is not the same thing as not having a clue.

21 Shevy

Well, I commented yesterday with my flu story on Mr. Cheap’s post. Basically, I’m high risk (asthma, pneumonia history) and went to get the H1N1 but my doc only got *80* doses of it the first week and it was all gone the first day, before I could get in. So I got the seasonal and was supposed to go back for the other. Instead Dear Child came home from school on Friday feeling slightly unwell and was really sick the next night. I was sick by Sunday morning.

We went to a walk in clinic Sunday evening and I was given Tamiflu. Both of us are pretty much better (no fever for more than 24 hours, although we’re both coughing) and I think we’re going back to school & work tomorrow since the “no fever +1 day” rule is the criteria for when to go back.

I’m weak and still barely eating but I’ve been much sicker with other flus in the past and much, much sicker the time I had Norwalk. I was passing out on the bathroom floor that time in between bouts. I have no clue how much to credit the Tamiflu for all this.

But I would definitely encourage people to get both the seasonal and the H1N1.

22 Stompie

Interesting stuff

Potato thanks for some facts and figures around the mercury issue. As a relatively new parent I still have a hard time accepting that this tiny person will have the same amount of toxic material injected into her, I guess you have to weigh in the benefits.

Shevy I’m interested, did you actually get diagnosed with H1N1 then? I ask as I was the one lucky enough to bring something home two weeks ago and infected everyone at home. My wife and I were prescribed this tamiflu stuff but the little one wasn’t and did take a lot longer to recover. It has left me wondering if we’ve already had some exposure to H1N1 or if it was another random bug. Knowing could really make a non-issue of the vaccine issue for us but I have no idea if you just go to your doctor to be tested. He didn’t seem interested when he was diagnosing and prescribing for us.

I would have thought if health organisations are trying to track the disease they would want to have tests on anyone who appeared to have the symptoms, although I do realise that would be a huge undertaking. Without knowing how many people have been exposed though how can we possibly keep track of the statistical seriousness of the illness such as deaths/hospitalisations/infection ratios?

23 Shevy

The clinic doc didn’t do the test for H1N1. He diagnosed flu and Tamiflu is helpful for either H1N1 or seasonal. But there were children away with H1N1 at Dear Child’s school, including at least one from her class and I had had the seasonal shot close to a week before getting sick. It could have been that I just didn’t have enough immunity yet and that I caught the seasonal but I don’t know if it’s possible to tell at this stage. And it does seem at least somewhat more likely that it was H1N1.

It leaves me wondering if I should still go for the H1N1 shot now (assuming my doc has it again).

24 AM

Why is anyone talking about is not being cheap…its free!

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