H1N1 vaccine

The H1N1 vaccine has been tested in both clinical trials and live vaccination campaigns in 14 countries. The results were reviewed by a group of experts from around the world. This group is the highest-level advisory body to the World Health Organization on vaccination policy.

"All the reports received today following vaccination either in clinical trial or live vaccination campaign have showed the safety profile of these pandemic vaccines is good and is very similar to the ones for seasonal influenza. Nothing in terms of adverse events has been noted," said Dr. Kieny, director of WHO's Initiative for Vaccine Research.

When the outbreak of the H1N1 virus first happened, WHO's vaccine advisory panel said that pregnant women should get an unadjuvanted vaccine if possible. An adjuvant is a compound added to a vaccine to boost the immune response to the shots.

Because of this recommendation, Canada ordered 1.8 million doses of unadjuvanted vaccine for pregnant women. However, Canada's H1N1 vaccine manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, only has one production line for the two types of vaccine (adjuvanted  and unadjuvanted).

GSK first made the vaccine with an adjuvant. Then, because of the order, they temporarily switched to making 1.8 million doses of unadjuvanted vaccine for pregnant women. When that was done, they switched back to making the adjuvanted vaccine. However, because having to make the unadjuvanted vaccine interrupted their production, there is reduced number of doses of the vaccine for next week.

After they reviewed the evidence, WHO's advisory panel said that both vaccines work equally well, and pregnant women are safe to take either one. Pregnant women who get infected with H1N1 have a significantly higher risk of severe complications, especially in the second and third trimester, so it is very important for them to get vaccinated.

The vaccine is also safe for children. There are some countries where children aged six months to 10 years old are on the priority list for receiving vaccines. These children should get at least one dose of the vaccine, to cover as many of them as possible. The WHO panel also said that the seasonal flu shot and H1N1 vaccine can be given at the same time.

Source: Kirkey, Sharon. “World health body says H1N1 vaccines safe, effective.” Canwest News Service. 30 October 2009. 31 October 2009.