Dec. 4, 2009 - Serious reactions after receiving the H1N1 swine fluvaccine are rare and not significantly higher than those seen from the seasonal flu vaccine, according to a briefing at the CDC today.
Director Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, presented preliminary safety data and confidence that the H1N1 vaccine will not be dogged by Guillain-Barre syndrome, the neurological disorder that was associated with the 1976 swine flu vaccine.
“The likelihood that we’ll have a 1976-like problem with this year’s H1N1 influenza vaccine is vanishingly remote,” said Frieden.
H1N1 flu cases fell off somewhat during the Thanksgiving week, with widespread activity reported in 25 states, a drop from 32 states in the previous week. Still, 17 children died last week of laboratory-confirmed H1N1 flu, bringing the number of child deaths to 210. That’s three times the number of flu deaths expected in children at this point in a normal flu season.
“This virus is a much worse virus for younger people. The number of people, not just children, but young adults under age 50 who will get severely ill or die from this virus is much higher than it is from seasonal flu," said Frieden.
Liquid forms of the antiviral drug Tamiflu should be easily available now, according to CDC. The agency distributed the drug from the strategic national stockpile until manufacturers could catch up with demand.
Frieden says the agency is seeing a dramatic improvement in the treatment of children who are severely ill with influenza, due to the use antivirals like Tamiflu. In most years, only one in five sick children arriving at a hospital have been started on an antiviral. This year, 80% are getting early treatment, which helps prevent severe illness.
The vaccine supply is increasing as well, with 73 million doses of the H1N1 swine flu vaccine available this week and another 10 million coming next week. Top priority for getting the shot should still go to people in the high-risk groups.
“Vaccination is the single best thing you can do to protect yourself and your family against the flu,” Frieden said.