A new parent digs for the truth on the flu vaccine
Published Thursday, October 29, 2009 10:56AM EDT
CTV Toronto reporter Naomi Parness has signed off the air and has moved on to her next assignment: motherhood. While on her maternity leave, she will be filing occasional columns on the experience of this whole new responsibility. Here's her latest:
I know it's been a very long time since I wrote one of these columns, things have been extremely busy for us -- but good. I will explain why in another column.
But I wanted to address something that's been on my mind the past week, and it's probably something on the minds of a lot of new parents: The H1N1 swine flu vaccine. We agree with vaccinations in our family. But when it came to the H1N1 vaccine, my husband and I initially struggled with the decision about whether to give it to Ben.
The main reason is his age. He's only 7 months old, and the thought of injecting that into his little body scared us a bit. There are also a lot of myths and rumours swirling about the vaccine and I had to sort through the information for the truth.
After doing my own research and speaking to many doctors and public health experts I have decided the risks of NOT getting the shot for Ben are much worse.
Now -- as is the case with everything when it comes to parents -- everyone has to do what they are comfortable with. But I thought it would be timely to share some of the information I received so it can help others make the important decision to get the vaccine for your children or not to get it.
To begin with, most pediatricians I know -- and Health Canada -- are highly recommending it for any child over 6 months. Dr. Sherri Katz is a pediatrician at CHEO, the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario. She whole heartedly agrees young children and babies over 6 months need to get the vaccine.
Dr. Katz has already vaccinated her two young children. She supports CHEO's position that the H1N1 vaccine is the best tool to prevent H1N1 influenza and keep children safe and healthy during this pandemic, especially because young people are particularly impacted by this strain of the virus.
For those worried about the vaccine, Dr. Katz says "the vaccine is no less safe than other routine immunizations. She also says "the vaccine does not contain any live virus and therefore you cannot get the flu from the vaccine. It has undergone the same testing as any seasonal flu vaccine and is produced in a very similar fashion."
Adjuvant vs unadjuvant
Dr. Katz says "all of the 'adjuvants' (additives that are used to help the body mount a greater immune response to the vaccine) have been used for many years in other routine childhood immunizations. Some may wonder why Health Canada has chosen to give children the adjuvant version of the vaccine while the United States have chosen to give children the unadjuvanted version of the vaccine."
According to Health Canada's website, "clinical trials have indicated that the unadjuvanted H1N1 flu vaccine does not deliver as strong of an immune response as was observed in previous trials with the adjuvanted flu vaccine. This is why Canada chose to use adjuvanted vaccine for children, administered in two half-doses 21 days apart."
Many parents are concerned because the vaccine contains trace amounts of egg residue -- a food children are not supposed to be exposed to until they are a year old. But Dr. Katz says the vaccine is being "recommended for children even if they have not had previous egg exposure."
Why two doses?
Health Canada says:
"The recommendation for two half-doses of vaccine in children under 10 is aligned with the seasonal flu recommendation. The seasonal flu recommendation is that children six months to 23 months receive two half doses of the vaccine, and children over the age of 23 months to 10 years who are receiving the vaccine for the first time should also receive two half doses of vaccine. This has been shown to give children the best immune response. Since the H1N1 flu vaccine is an influenza vaccine, the recommendation stands. Additionally, reactions to the vaccine were higher in clinical trials for children who received a full dose as compared to those who received two half-doses."
What to do:
Again, every parent needs to make the decision themselves and do what they feel is best for their whole family. There is a list of resources to help you on our website.
For more info:
You can also visit http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/alert-alerte/h1n1/index-eng.phpHealth Canada's website for more information or you can call your local health unit or look on its website.
As well, the CTV.ca website has been providing frequent updates to
Frequently Asked Questions about the swine flu vaccine, written by medical reporter Angela Mulholland and infectious disease expert Dr. Neil Rau.
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