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H1N1 Vaccination Programs Is Effective

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

As the availability of H1N1 vaccine draws closer, the Springfield-Greene County Health Department seeks to provide accurate information about the benefits and risks of vaccination so that individuals can make the best possible decision about protecting their own health and the health of their family members.

"Anytime there is a new public health issue, people are understandably concerned," says director of health Kevin Gipson. "Our goal is to provide them with accurate, timely, credible information about the new H1N1 vaccine – its production, testing and licensing processes, as well as its safety and effectiveness – so that people can decide for themselves if they want to be vaccinated against H1N1. This is a voluntary program."

The health department will be actively monitoring the vaccination process and reviewing any adverse reactions that may occur, in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, the US Department of Health and Human Services and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Vaccine safety monitoring uses both active and passive surveillance in an effort to quickly identify any clinically significant adverse events following immunization and to provide timely information to vaccine providers, health care providers and the public.

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"Vaccination is the gold standard of protection against influenza," adds Gipson. "We know vaccination programs work. We no longer routinely see cases of polio, measles, mumps, rubella and other vaccine preventable diseases, thanks to successful vaccination programs. As the H1N1 vaccine completes its clinical trials we will know more about its safety and effectiveness. So far early reports of H1N1 vaccinations trials in healthy adults say the vaccine was well tolerated and established immunity to H1N1 within 14 days."

Gipson says he also hears concerns from people about thimerosal and Guillain-Barre syndrome. Thimerosal is a mercury-based preservative that is used in some influenza vaccines to keep them free from contamination of microorganisms. H1N1 vaccine is being manufactured in several formulations, including single dose units that will not contain thimerosal and a live-attenuated version (mist) that will not contain thimerosal.

"Although some people suggest a link between thimerosal and autism, science does not show a connection," says Gipson. "There has also been concern about Guillain-Barre syndrome being linked to influenza vaccination. Numerous studies have been done on this topic. Two studies suggested that approximately 1 additional person out of 1 million vaccinated people may be at risk for Guillain-Barre syndrome associated with the seasonal flu vaccine. In most of the studies, no association was found."

As more information becomes available on when H1N1 vaccine will be available in Greene County, the health department will notify the public. In the meantime, residents are encouraged to get vaccinated for seasonal influenza. This shot will not protect them against H1N1 influenza, but it will offer protection against three strains of seasonal flu likely to circulate in the United States this fall and winter. Seasonal flu and its complications kill approximately 36,000 people in the United States each year, and vaccination is the best method of protection against it.