CDC answers questions about the H1N1 vaccine

Bill Gallo
Bill Gallo

By Leland Kim - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Swine flu, or the H1N1 virus, is now widespread in 37 states, which is ten more than last week. While this new round has yet to reach our shores, some still have questions about the safety and need to get the swine flu vaccine.

There are still some people who don't trust the swine flu vaccine. Some of the concerns include paralysis and other illnesses, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says they've done extensive testing to ensure its safety.

It has been available to "high risk" groups like health care workers and pregnant women since Monday, but lingering concerns about the swine flu vaccine are keeping some from signing up for it.

Concern include the 1976 swine flu vaccine, which some believed, caused Guillain-Barre syndrome, a neurological disorder which causes paralysis.

"This vaccine is not like the vaccine that was used in the 1970s," said Bill Gallo, an executive with the CDC. "This vaccine is very close to the seasonal flu vaccine that is used every year. It's immunized hundreds of millions of people."

Another concern is thimerosal, a preservative used control contamination in some swine flu vaccines.

It has been used for a very long time as a preservative, and it has not been shown to have adverse effects on the persons who get vaccinated.

Thimerosal has been approved by the Institute of Medicine. the American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC, and the Food and Drug Administration.

That said, thimerosal-free vaccines are available.

And an unpublished Canadian study "suggests getting an annual flu shot may make it easier to contract swine flu."

This caused the Canadian government to delay its annual flu shot program.

"Canada has made its decision and we really can't comment on what Canada decides to do," said Gallo. "But I can say we are paying very close attention to the research and that currently there is no indication from the preponderance of studies that have been done, that we should be doing anything differently than what we're doing right now."

So the CDC says, if you trust the regular flu vaccine, you should also trust the swine flu vaccine.

"The adverse events that are expected with the H1N1 vaccine now are expected to be very similar to what they would be with the normal flu vaccine," said Gallo.

The swine flu vaccine is still only available for high risk groups, but it'll be available to the general public in November, or as early as the end of October.