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For information regarding the H1N1 vaccine please visit the CDC’s web site at: http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/vaccination/public/vaccination_qa_pub.htm

H1N1 Vaccine FAQ

Dr. Peter Vellis, University Medical Director, addresses some additional common questions regarding the H1N1 vaccine expressed by parents and students at UAlbany which include:

Q. Isn’t the thimerosal in the multi dose injectable vials dangerous?

A. Thimerosal has never been shown to be of any danger in the small doses seen with the flu vaccine. A 10 dose vial has 250 micrograms of thimerosal (25 micrograms per vaccine). By comparison a tuna fish sandwich has 28 micrograms of mercury.

BOTTOM LINE: There is no evidence that thimerosal poses a risk.

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Q. Isn’t it true that this new H1N1 vaccine has not had adequate testing?

A. Typically the seasonal flu does not receive yearly testing since it varies little from the previous year’s vaccine. There is considerable experience with the seasonal flu vaccine development and production. The technology used has a long track record for safety and effectiveness in the US. Every year the flu vaccine is modified based on small genetic changes the virus undergoes each year (referred to as antigenic drift). The seasonal vaccine actually has a H2N3 flu component, a NON-novel H1N1 flu component and an Influenza B component.

The new (novel) H1N1 vaccine is produced the same way and has actually had more testing done than the seasonal flu vaccine. It has been found safe, but the primary reason for the extensive testing was to determine effectiveness. It was learned only one dose was necessary for an adequate immune response for those 10 years of age and older (not the two doses originally expected). In addition the testing revealed that adequate protection was achieved within 8-10 days (sooner that the 14 days for seasonal flu).

BOTTOM LINE: The novel H1N1 vaccine and the seasonal flu vaccine are both considered to be safe.

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Q. Aren’t the adjuvants being used in this vaccine dangerous?

A. Adjuvants are chemicals used to achieve a comparable immune response with a vaccine but at a much lower vaccine dose, thereby allowing the same quantity of vaccine to immunize a larger number of people. The use of adjuvants can potentially increase side effects. Adjuvants are not licensed for use in this country and this vaccine does not have any adjuvants.

BOTTOM LINE: Adjuvants are of no concern with this vaccine since they are not used in this vaccine.

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Q. The last swine flu vaccine in 1976 caused Guillain-Barre syndrome. Won’t that happen with this vaccine?

A. The link between Guillain-Barre syndrome and the 1976 swine flu vaccine is subject to much debate with many public health officials skeptical of a true cause and effect between the virus and the condition. Guillain-Barre syndrome is a neurologic disorder than can occur spontaneously for no apparent reason. It usually resolves within a few weeks with no long term sequelae in the vast majority of those affected. It has been linked to viruses, surgery and immunizations. Overall the risk of Guillain-Barre syndrome is no higher with this H1N1 vaccine than with seasonal flu vaccine. Something to consider: the overall risk of Guillain-Barre syndrome from a flu vaccine is about 1 in one million. The overall risk of dying from H1N1 is estimated at 1 in 8,300.

BOTTOM LINE: The risk of an adverse outcome from contracting the H1N1 virus is much more worrisome than the risk of Guillain-Barre syndrome.

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Q. Can I receive the seasonal and novel H1N1 vaccine together?

A. 3 potential scenarios exist:

  1. The killed (injected) forms of each can be given at the same time or separated by any time interval.
  2. The live (nasal spray) of either vaccine can be given at the same time or any interval with the killed (injected) form of the other.
  3. The live forms must be separated by 28 days for effective immunity form each.

BOTTOM LINE: as long as at least one of the vaccines is the killed (injected) form of vaccine, it can be administered at the same time or any time interval with the other vaccine.

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Q. Will the vaccine clinics have injection (killed) or Nasal spray (live) vaccines?

A. Though we were able to offer both Nasal spray and injectable vaccine in the fall semester, at this time we will only have the injectable vaccine available.

BOTTOM LINE: Only injectable H1N1 vaccine is available at H1N1 vaccine clinics.

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Q. Where can I download and view the H1N1 Vaccine Information Statements (VIS) for both types of H1N1 vaccines (nasal and injection)?

The Vaccination Information Statements are available for download here (Nasal) and here (injection) as well as at the CDC’s web site.

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Q. How can parental consent be given for students under 18?

Parents will need to fill out and sign the H1N1 vaccine consent form (http://www.albany.edu/h1n1/consent_form.pdf) and send to their student. The student will need to bring the signed consent form with them to the clinic to get their vaccination.

BOTTOM LINE: Without a signed consent an under 18 year old student will not be able to receive the vaccine.

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Q. Previously those over 25 could not sign up for the vaccine. Is this still the case?

No, current CDC guidelines state that any person that desires the vaccine can receive it if available.

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