Wednesday, October 28, 2009

H1N1 Influenza Vaccine

The flu season is upon us. This season we are blessed with the new strain of H1N1 flu, which has been making its appearance around the world. When the first cases of swine flu first appeared in Mexico in April this year, I was following the development with interest. Reports of non-elderly people falling ill and in some cases dying from the H1N1 flu worried me. Now, with my older child in kindergarten and my younger child still so young, the worry genes as a mother kick in.

The H1N1 influenza vaccine is now available to high priority group, such as young children. I am questioning whether to get my children immunized. The side effects of this vaccine is reported to be much like a regular flu shot, namely, soreness/redness around the site of the shot, nausea, fever, headache/muscle ache. The media has also been reporting the risk of Guillain-Barré Syndrome brought on after receiving the vaccine. Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) is an auto-immune system disorder in which part of the peripheral nervous system is attacked by its own system. A serious case may lead to paralysis. The risk of GBS has been most prominently highlighted.

After doing some research, it seems that most vaccines may trigger GBS. It seems that there are more cases of GBS associated with H1N1 flu vaccine than with regular flu vaccine. But is that such a cause for concern?

I am still undecided as get my children vaccinated or not. I'd welcome all your comments on this matter.

Related Articles:
H1N1 Outbreak at Mount Sinai Hospital (Toronto)
H1N1 Outbreak at Another Toronto Hospital
Patients with Egg Allergy be Aware; Additional Info

It is interesting to note that the US and Canada opted for different approaches to distributing the H1N1 flu vaccine.

In the US, the H1N1 flu has been described as a national emergency and everyone has been urged to get vaccinated. The vaccine ordered by US health authorities is one without adjuvant, an immune-boosting agent to the receiver of the vaccine. The adjuvant also allow vaccine makers to use less antigen, the active ingredient in vaccines, meaning that they can produce significantly more vaccine – four to five times more – than would be possible without adjuvants. In the US, there is already a shortfall of the vaccine.

By contrast, in Canada, public health officials have been promoting to the public the importance of good personal hygene, in combination of getting vaccinated. The bulk of the vaccine ordered by Canada is an adjuvanted one. The vaccine (Arepanrix) is manufactured by GSK, in Dresden, Germany, as well as Quebec. Much debate has beem prompted relating to the adjuvanted vaccine in Canada. The adjuvant being added to the vaccine is called AS03. It's a natural combination of several substances, including vitamin E and squalene derived from shark liver. Although this particular adjuvant hasn't been used in a Canadian influenza vaccine before, it has been tested on about 45,000 individuals using a vaccine designed to fight the H5N1 avian influenza. Adjuvants have also been widely used in Europe, and have been included in some other Canadian vaccines. The delivery of the H1N1 vaccine to the Canadian public has only just started this week, and only people on the high priority list are getting the vaccine first.

I have thoroughly researched and debated the merits of getting the H1N1 flu vaccine and the risk of having the adjuvant trigger Guillain-Barré Syndrome. It is a terrifying to learn that two healthy children (age 10 and 13) who fell ill and died from H1N1 flu in the last two weeks. And now, with the proper research into the risk, I have made up my mind to get my two children vaccinated, next week. Having to wait in line for six and half hours to get the needle is more terrifying to me.

Detailed Analysis of the 3 H1N1 Flu Vaccines (both Adjuvanted and Not) Produced by GSK, Baxter, and Novartis

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