by Laurie Ross
Last year I waited an hour and a half to get an H1N1 flu shot with my teenage daughter and her friend at the local health clinic. I’m not big on lines, but I wanted to take extra precautions against the possible pandemic. We thought we had lucked out when the attendant waved us into the building and out of the rain – but soon found that the line snaked around, Disney-World-like, on the inside. It was worth it, though – she stayed healthy all season!
Do you wonder whatever happened to H1N1 – swine flu? Well, the World Health Organization declared the pandemic over in August, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the virus will likely continue to circulate and cause illness in the U.S. during this year’s flu season — and like all flu viruses, it continues to be dangerous.
I asked CDC’s David Callahan, MD, what people should do. “Vaccination is the first and most important step in protecting against influenza,” he said. “This year’s flu vaccine will protect against three different flu viruses: the 2009 H1N1 virus and two others expected to circulate. Everyone with asthma who is six months and older should get a flu vaccination – whether or not they got the H1N1 vaccine last year.”
Flu Facts to Remember
• Flu shot clinics are springing up everywhere this year. Don’t put it off any longer – get yours now!
• Some children younger than 9 years of age need two doses to be protected, especially if they did not get the H1N1 vaccine last year. Ask your healthcare provider.
• No one with asthma should use the nasal spray flu vaccine (FluMist®).
New thinking about vaccines and egg allergy
People with asthma are at high risk of flu complications, so it is extra important for them to get a flu shot – especially children. However, many children with asthma also have egg allergy and the CDC says flu vaccine should not be given to people with severe egg allergy because the vaccines often contain traces of egg protein. What’s a parent to do?
A recent statement* from leading experts at the Food Allergy Initiative explains why it may be possible for some with egg allergy to receive flu vaccine:
*Over the years, several vaccine manufacturers have begun to label the vaccines with the amount of egg that they contain, and it appears that some have much less egg protein than they had many years ago. Additionally, studies have emerged showing that the vast majority of children with egg allergy, even those with “severe” egg allergy, tolerate the vaccines. The focus of avoiding these vaccines has primarily been aimed at children with “severe” egg allergy. This means that a child with “mild” egg allergy could get the vaccine.
The allergists recommend parents talk to their child’s pediatrician and allergist about whether their egg-allergic child should get a flu vaccination. And if the answer is “yes,” the vaccine should always be given under supervision of a physician who is prepared to treat allergic reactions.
First published in AANMA’s The MA Report, November 2010.