H1N1 Vaccine: Get It or Don’t Get It?

By Kristie Turck •  Published 10/21/09 •  5 min read

vaccine1It’s been quiet here, I know.  Having a new baby in the house has really tested my organizational skills and I am failing miserably! I have tons of stuff to write about on SafeMama.com and very little time to actually do it!  To get the ball rolling in the right direction I wanted to post about H1N1 (Swine Flu) Vaccines.

I have gotten several emails from readers asking me what to do.  Here again is one of those gray areas that I feel its inappropriate for me to present my opinion as what you should do.  Choosing to vaccine your children is something you have to decide for yourself with your Pediatrician.  However I will tell you how I feel about the situation and give you a few things to consider before you decide.

First, I am hearing a lot of mixed opinions from pediatricians whether getting the H1N1 vaccine is a good idea…. both ends of the spectrum are being represented so it’s difficult for us as parents to know who to trust.  Whether your pediatrician is pro or anti vaccine I think it’s imperative that your pediatrician be supportive and offer you alternatives and guidance rather than pushing you with fear.  If you pediatrician makes you feel like a bad parent or uses fear tactics rather than consideration in helping you decide, I’d recommend getting another opinion, or another pediatrician.  I think it’s so crucial to work with doctors who guide you rather than push you.  It’s OK to be concerned! That’s what parents do… question, worry and wonder what the right thing to do is – even if we never really figure it out.  And your pediatrician should help you with those instincts.

Second, many parents are concerned given the immaturity of the vaccine, saying it’s been “rushed onto the market” and fear it may do more harm than good.  It’s a valid concern (or is it?) and one I am seeing a lot from fellow parents.  On the other hand, many Doctors are urging patients to get the vaccine as adamantly as they push for seasonal flu vaccines.   It’s tough to sift through all the conflicting information.  The CDC recommends that pregnant women, persons who live with or provide care for infants aged over 6 months, health-care and emergency medical services personnel, children and young adults aged 6 months–24 years, and persons aged 25–64 years who have medical conditions that put them at higher risk for influenza-related complications get the H1N1 vaccine.  It seems young people, kids and pregnant women are most at risk with this particular strain of flu.

Edit to Add: A friend directed me to a great article from the New York Times that handles basic Q & A about the vaccine which takes some of the “scary” out of it.  Read the NY Times Flu Vaccine Primer.

For those concerned with the possible thimerosal content there are options that are thimerosal free.  Single dose vaccines and the nasal doses (LAIV) do not contain thimerosal according to the CDC.  Multi-dose vials distributed do contain thimerosal to prevent the growth of bacteria in opened vials of the vaccine.

Personally, I am as concerned about it as you and still haven’t decided one way or the other.  I am leaning in the direction of “wait and see” despite the fact that I did have my son get a nasal seasonal flu vaccine earlier this year.

Whether you decide to get the vaccine or not it’s good to follow the basic rules to thwart off flu and colds:

Hand Washing. You keep hearing it but it’s really the best protection.  I make a habit of washing my hands, and my kids hands, with soap and water the minute I walk in the door and whenever soap and water are available.  I carry a safe hand sanitizer with me for when we can’t get to a sink.

Hands Off. In between washings, try your best to avoid touching your face (mouth, nose, eyes).

Ahchoo! Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

Stay Away! Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

If you DO get sick:

In the meantime, stay healthy, eat right, take care of yourselves and wash those hands.