Worth a Closer Look: H1N1 Vaccine

by Ellen

Closer LookYesterday afternoon we drove past my son’s pediatrician’s office.  There was a police officer stationed outside, with car lights flashing.  It took a while to process what must be going on until we saw the line of parents and young children stretching out the door.  They were lining up for a H1N1 flu vaccine clinic that was slated to start an hour from then.

Later, watching the news, we learned that two women in the parking lot had come to shoves over a parking spot.  People are scared of H1N1 influenza and are desperately seeking vaccines for their children, and sometimes themselves.

The people in line were parents of high-risk children, including those with severe, chronic illnesses, or siblings of children under six months old.  I would be very worried if I were one of those parents, too.

When it comes to H1N1 vaccination, there are a few questions worth asking your doctor:

What types of vaccine are available?

There are numerous vaccine manufacturers and two routes of vaccine administration: by shot or nasal mist.  Risks vary by vaccine type.

If I get the intranasal vaccine, do I need to stay away from unvaccinated and/or immune-compromised individuals?

The nasal-spray vaccine is comprised of live-attenuated (weakened) H1N1 flu virus.  After vaccination, some shedding of viral particles can occur for up to 21 days.  CDC does not think this viral shedding is of concern, unless the vaccine recipient comes in contract with severely immune-compromised individuals.  Here is CDC’s information about viral shedding regarding the regular, seasonal intranasal flu vaccine (not H1N1).  According to their data, up to 2.4% of people can become infected with viral particles from a nasal-spray recipient.  It’s not clear how many will develop flu-like symptoms.

The intranasal vaccine is only available to non-pregnant individuals between the ages of 2 and 49 without specific, underlying health problems.

If I get the shot, will it be from a multidose vial or a single-use vial?

Multidose injectable flu vaccine contains a preservative (thimerosal).  Thimerosal contains almost 50% mercury.  The debate is still raging over how great the risk of exposure is to ethyl mercury (thimerosal).  Methyl mercury (a neurotoxin found in fish) is widely acknowledged as dangerous.

As far as I’m concerned, mercury is not something I want injected into my child, given a choice.  There is plenty of anecdotal evidence of poor health outcomes following vaccinations containing thimerosal.  Many people believe it can trigger autism. In fact, one study found that:  “Thimerosal-induced cytoxicity is similar to that observed in AD [autism disorder] pathophysiologic studies.” ¹

I would stay away from thimerosal.  For a list of thimerosal-containing vaccines, see Dr. Sears’ website.  Scroll down.

Will I need two doses of vaccine for my child?

Information regarding the number of vaccinations needed to confer immunity varies.  The World Health Organization reported this week that only one dose of H1N1 vaccine will protect individuals older than ten.  Younger children may need two doses.  Ask you doctor.

What if I received the seasonal flu vaccine already?

If you received the nasal spray seasonal flu vaccine, current recommendations are to wait at least two weeks before receiving the nasal spray version of the H1N1 vaccine.  Some physicians recommend waiting a month in between nasal spray vaccinations.  Your doctor may allow you to receive the shot form of  H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines at the same time.

You can find vastly differing opinions about whether or not to get vaccinated against H1N1 flu.  Some, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seem to think the risks of illness outweigh the risks of adverse effects of vaccination.  Dr. Joseph Mercola seems to feel the opposite is true.  Sifting through the evidence is hard when people are scared.

Here are the vaccine information sheets that CDC publishes for the H1N1 shot and the H1N1 nasal spray.

Good luck!


1.  Toxicological & Environmental Chemistry, Volume 91, Issue 4 June 2009, pages 735 – 749


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Jim November 12, 2009 at 8:01 am

This is a very informative article that gives weeks of thought. I look forward to your next post.

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