What You Need to Know About the H1N1 Vaccine

October 8, 2009 at 12:06 pm , by

EghrariThere are a lot of questions out there about the H1N1 vaccine, so we asked Dr. Jackie Eghrari-Sabet, M.D., to give us the scoop. She’s an allergist practicing in the Washington, DC Metro area, founder of Family Asthma & Allergy Care and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology.

Who can get the H1N1 vaccine?
While anyone can ask their doctor for the H1N1 vaccine, pregnant women, people who live with or take care of babies younger than 6 months old, children and young adults (6 months to 24 years old), and healthcare personnel have first priority. Adults ages 24 to 65 who have a chronic disease (asthma, immunosuppressive diseases, chemotherapy, cardiac disease, kidney disease) are also in line for the vaccine. A recent study found that adults older than 65 years old have a “less robust” response to the H1N1 vaccine, as is the case with the seasonal vaccine, but these people are also at a lower risk of contracting swine flu.

Is one shot enough?

The single shot dose has been shown to be effective in people 10 years of age and older.  Children 9 years old and younger should receive the two-dose vaccine, spaced four weeks apart.

Does it matter whether I get the shot or the spray?
Both the shot and the spray have been show to be equally effective.  However, if you have a chronic respiratory disease such as asthma, you should get the shot.

Are there any side effects to the H1N1 vaccine?
Some people are worried that because the swine flu vaccine was developed so quickly, it might not be safe. However, there’s little cause for concern.  The H1N1 vaccine was created using the same process as the regular seasonal flu vaccine—we’ve just substituted H1N1 where we would have put another influenza strain.  You might feel a little achey and worn out as your body mounts an immunological response to the vaccine.  Like the seasonal flu vaccine, the H1N1 flu vaccine is grown in eggs, so people who have an egg allergy should consult their allergist about the appropriateness of receiving the vaccine.

Can I get it at the same time as my regular seasonal flu shot?
You should not get the H1N1 and seasonal flu nasal sprays at the same visit. However, you can receive swine flu shot at the same time as any other vaccine, including the seasonal flu vaccine.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Jackie Eghrari-Sabet.

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