Meridian Health Addresses H1N1 Flu Vaccine Myths and Facts

Contact:Elizabeth Dobis

Meridian Health Addresses H1N1 Flu Vaccine Myths and Facts

Separating myth from fact when discussing H1N1 vaccine

Several questions arise when discussing the H1N1 vaccine's use, potential side effects, effectiveness and more. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) strongly recommend that everyone within a high-risk group receive the H1N1 vaccination in order to control the spread of this disease. High-risk groups include Pregnant women; Household contacts and caregivers for children younger than 6 months of age; Healthcare and emergency medical services personnel; all people from 6 months to 24 years of age; Persons aged 25 through 64 years who have health conditions associated with higher risk of medical complications from influenza.

According to the CDC, the following information separates myth from fact regarding the H1N1 vaccine:

"Vaccines that contain thimerosal are unsafe for children and pregnant women."

It is safe for children and pregnant women to receive a flu vaccine that contains thimerosal.

Thimerosal is a very effective preservative that has been used since the 1930s to prevent contamination in some multi-dose vials of vaccines. There is no convincing evidence of harm caused by the low doses of thimerosal in vaccines, except for minor reactions like redness and swelling at the injection site.

"It costs too much money to get an H1N1 vaccine."

The federal government has purchased the H1N1 vaccine and is providing it to the states free of charge. This is different in many places from the seasonal flu vaccine.

"You need to get two doses of the H1N1 vaccine, and it takes a month between each dose."

There is really good news that has come out of our clinical trials being run by the National Institutes of Health and the flu vaccine manufacturers. The H1N1 vaccine is a really good match with the H1N1 virus currently circulating across the country, and healthy adults and children 10 and older will need only one dose of vaccine.

Though scientists initially thought that two doses might be required, information from clinical trials has since demonstrated the H1N1 vaccine works faster than we expected and works well against the H1N1 virus, which is making millions of Americans sick. It is still important to remember that children under 9 years old should still receive two doses of vaccine.

It's also fine to get the seasonal flu shot and the H1N1 shot at the same time. It is true that if you get the nasal spray form of the vaccine, you need to wait three to four weeks before getting another nasal spray vaccine.

"This new vaccine is not safe and is untested."

Clinical trials conducted by the National Institutes of Health and the vaccine manufacturers have shown that the new H1N1 vaccine is both safe and effective. The FDA has licensed it. There have been no safety shortcuts.

It is produced exactly the same way the seasonal flu vaccine is produced every year. It is simply a new virus strain. In fact, had H1N1 struck this country earlier than this spring, the H1N1 strain probably would have been included as part of this year's seasonal flu shot.

Millions of Americans get the seasonal flu vaccine each year without any problems. Still, understanding that some Americans have concerns about "new" vaccines, the National Institutes of Health and the vaccine manufacturers have conducted more rigorous tests on the H1N1 vaccine than they do on other flu vaccines, and there have been no red flags from these clinical trials.

Also, CDC has stepped up surveillance efforts to track the H1N1 vaccine and any possible adverse events. Since it is so closely related to the seasonal flu vaccine, we do not expect to see serious side effects. But we are taking all the necessary steps to promote and monitor safety.

Our top doctors and scientists believe the risk of the flu, especially for pregnant women, children, and people with underlying health conditions, is higher than any risk that might come from the H1N1 vaccine.

Meridian Health stands behind the CDC's recommendations for this vaccine and encourages all those in the high risk groups to receive the vaccination as soon as possible.

For further information on the H1N1 virus or the seasonal flu, please visit or

Meridian Health is a family of not-for-profit health care organizations comprising Jersey Shore University Medical Center and K. Hovnanian Children's Hospital in Neptune, Ocean Medical Center in Brick, Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, and Meridian Partner Companies that include home health services, skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers, ambulatory care, ambulance services, and occupational health centers located throughout Monmouth and Ocean counties.