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H1N1 (Swine Flu) Vaccine rolling out in Canada

October 26, 2009

Makin' vaccine

So, today is the day we’ve all been anticipating. The heavily hyped, steeped-in-controversy, roll-up-your-sleeve-and-say-‘ouch’ H1N1 vaccination is available (CBC)!

Through bulletins from the Canadian Medical Association, the British Columbia Medical association, and the Public Health Agency of Canada, we docs have some sort of idea about this vaccine.

** CTV has an Excellent “FAQ” for the Swine Flu Vaccine.**

(I could rehash it, but you should just read the darn thing.)

Even though that FAQ is comprehensive, I just wanted to share a few other links. If you are a real keener, see this brief summary of British Columbia’s H1N1 Pandemic vaccination plan, a document prepared for physicians.

Who is susceptible to influenza?

Everyone. Pregnancy, aboriginal heritage, being young, living in a remote community, and being female seem to be risk factors for developing more severe illness. Those 65 and older may have been exposed to this viral strain long ago, and as such, may have some residual immunity.

Who should get the vaccine?

Everyone (almost). See The Public Health Agency of Canada’s list for the full recommendations.

Should I still get the seasonal flu vaccine?

This part is still somewhat controversial. Current recommendations are that those older than 65 should have the seasonal flu vaccine, and that those getting the H1N1 vaccine have the seasonal shot simultaneously, or if they chose to opt out of one, the H1N1 vaccine should take priority. See the aforementioned FAQ for a more thorough answer.

Some people are opting to get both for various reasons; the main one being that the H1N1 vaccine won’t protect you against other strains of the flu, which can also be deadly, and those strains will probably still be floating around this year (ScienceBlogs). Those not wanting both may have a contraindication to one or the other, may be leery of the vaccine components, may feel they are not at risk, or worry about the vaccines interacting/rendering each other ineffective. Though there was a little blip of data that suggested the last point may be worth considering, and Quebec jumped all over this, now the recommendation is that it is safe and effective to have both immunizations.

National review and examination of both the sequential and the simultaneous administration of the pandemic H1N1 vaccine and the seasonal flu vaccine have determined that administering the seasonal and H1N1 vaccines at the same time is unlikely to impair the immune response to either one. (BC CDC).

I don’t want the shot because something bad will happen to me/my child if we get vaccinated.

See my previous post about safety of seasonal flu vaccines and their components; if you really want to dig deep, all vaccine monographs are catalogued by Johns Hopkins Institute for Vaccine Safety. Again, there is much more in the FAQ about vaccine safety. I defer to that. If you’ve heard something about Guillian-Barre Syndrome (GBS), this NeuroLogica Blog is a good read.

If you make the decision not to get vaccinated, you are not only putting yourself at risk, but you are putting everyone around you at risk (Wired).

8 Comments leave one →
  1. October 27, 2009 8:03 am

    I’m sure you’ve covered this already, but do people need to get two different shots: ie: one for H1N1 and one for the regular old flu? I can’t seem to get a straight answer for that…


    • October 28, 2009 10:35 am

      Hi Rach,

      I’m not your doctor so this isn’t my ‘advice’ but just my take-

      What I am going to do is get my H1N1 first (since that’s what’s available) and then get the Seasonal vaccine later, since right now there are only limited amounts of the latter. I think the benefit of each (preventing or lessening the severity of influenza infection) outweighs any uncertainties about the components or adjuvants. I work in healthcare so I’m around flu-y people all day, and I’m also around immunocompromised people all day. I have a duty to protect myself and to protect my patients by trying not to carry the virus around. Good hand-washing and vaccinations are my best defence.

      Those over 65 should definitely get the Seasonal vaccine ASAP as they likely have some immunity to H1N1 but not to the seasonal flu (and old people tend to get quite sick with any flu).

      Both H1N1 and the regular flu will be going around this year, according to the experts. Right now, it’s H1N1 and so it should be a priority to get that vaccine at the moment, and where I am, that is all that is available to me at the moment.

      Er, short answer: both vaccines are recommended but a lot of distribution depends on availability. See if you meet the ‘high risk’ criteria (see the link in my post) or if there is any reason you SHOULD NOT have the shot, i.e. have a contraindication.

      Still confused? Ask your doctor!

  2. October 28, 2009 1:25 pm

    J – wasn’t looking for advice, moreso a rule of thumb… I’m not going to be anywhere near the front of the line to get said flu… I totally agree with you that high-risk people should be immunized for both and ASAP.

    I appreciate your thoughts… I find that all the media outlets have slightly different takes on the info provided… I’ve yet to find anything that addresses all the questions without feeling like some info is being contradicted by other info.

    Thanks and stay healthy!


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