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H1N1 Swine Flu Vaccine Questions Continue: Should you get it if you have asthma, cancer or diabetes?

Posted Dec 09 2009 4:31pm
By Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA

Our Healthin30.com readers continue to have questions and concerns regarding the H1N1 swine flu vaccine.

Our medical expert, Bruce B. Dan, MD, infectious disease specialist, addresses our readers questions and concerns regarding the H1N1 swine flu vaccine.

Healthin30 Reader

Ms.Parker writes:

“I am a 21yr old female and I have only seasonal asthma that comes along with my spring allergies. I have a few questions regarding the H1N1 vaccine. First, because of my seasonal asthma should I receive the vaccine? Also, I have had pretty frequent tension headaches for the past year or so, I am not sure of the cause, stress, bad posture, diet? I am wondering if it is safe for me to get the vaccine with this pre-existing condition?

Are there any pre-existing medical conditions in which an individual should NOT receive the vaccine other than allergies to the ingredients? A response as soon as possible would be much appreciated as I am trying to schedule an appointment for the vaccine. Thank you!”

Healthin30 Medical Expert

Bruce B. Dan, MD replies:

“Individuals with asthma are especially encouraged to get the H1N1 influenza vaccine (as well as the seasonal flu shot!). Tension headaches are not a contraindication for the vaccine. The only groups who should avoid getting a flu shot are those with current or past medical issues that would pose a problem, specifically:
• People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs.
• People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination
in the past.
• Children less than 6 months of age”

Healthin30 Reader

Ms.Parker writes:

“I just left a comment/question on here and I forgot to add that I have never received even a regular flu shot before so as far as knowing of any allergic reactions, I am not sure. I have had most all other typical vaccines that young children and adults are supposed to get and haven’t had any problems but like I said have never gotten the flu shot, are the ingredients such as adjuvants and thimerosal found in most vaccines? I know I am not allergic to chicken products. Thanks again!”

Healthin30 Medical Expert

Bruce B. Dan, MD replies:

Information about adjuvants and thimerosal is addressed here:
H1N1 Swine Flu Vaccine Fears Addressed – Single vs. Multi-Dose, Adjuvants, Thimerosal and More

Healthin30 Reader

Ms. Parker writes:

“Thank you for your response it was much appreciated. The reason behind my concern about the headaches was because I have been trying to do as much research as I possibly can before I get the vaccine (which I will be getting today) and I came across a website that was obviously against getting the vaccine and it listed the multiple severe side effects of the vaccine and the word neurotoxin appeared frequently along with inflammatory and so I was just making sure it did not raise my odds of say stroke, paralysis, etc. Are there any medications, pain killers, cold medication, birth control. etc that you should worry about counteracting or causing problems with the vaccine? Thank you again!”

Healthin30 Medical Expert

Bruce B. Dan, MD replies:

“First, I do not know of any contraindication to receiving the influenza vaccine because you may be taking the above mentioned medications.

People may have legitimate concerns, as well they should, about taking vaccines, medicines, or undergoing medical procedures. But there are others who are a part of what has been termed the “anti-vaccine” movement. While physicians respect those individuals’ rights to their beliefs, much of the information they disseminate in their publications and on their websites is inaccurate, unscientific, and misleading.

If you want the most accurate, objective information about vaccines, you’ll find it at Immunizationinfo.org .  That’s the website of the National Network for Immunization Information, a non-profit group (they take no funding from any pharmaceutical manufacturer or the government) of leading experts from the American Medical Association, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Nurses Association, Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, Infectious Diseases Society of America, and the Society for Adolescent Medicine.”

Healthin30 Reader

Ai Bee Tan writes:

“I am a stage 4 bile duct cancer patient and receiving oral treatment. Naturally, I fall under the high risk group and is encouraged to take the H1N1 vaccination jab. Has there been any data on the vaccination test on cancer patients, who are on active treatment and what could be the possible side effects?”

Healthin30 Medical Expert

Bruce B. Dan, MD replies:

“Each week the CDC analyzes information about influenza disease activity in
the United States. They have found that more than half of the adults
hospitalized (seriously ill) with H1N1 flu have had underlying medical conditions, including pregnancy, asthma, diabetes, chronic lung diseases, chronic heart disease, and immunosuppressive disorders.

So it is especially important that individuals with cancer and other medical conditions, which may compromise the immune system, receive protection from the flu (both the H1N1 strain and the seasonal flu strains as well).  There is no evidence that these individuals (or healthy people) have had any major side effects from vaccination.

Remember that all of us are exposed to dozens of viruses and other potentially harmful micro-organisms on a daily basis. One of the main mechanisms our immune system has for warding off serious infections is to recognize the outer biochemical coating of these germs and to form antibodies against them. The influenza vaccine is merely a purified portion of that biochemical coating, and getting the vaccine allows you to produce protective antibodies without having to get the flu first.”

Healthin30 Reader

Angela writes:

“I have diabetes and cancer and was turned away at my clinic because I was over 49. Was this right?”

Healthin30 Medical Expert

Bruce B. Dan, MD replies:

“The CDC guidance for receiving the H1N1 influenza vaccine includes,
people ages of 25 through 64 years of age who are at higher risk for 2009 H1N1
because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems.  Anyone with cancer and diabetes would certainly be included in that group.”

Thank you to all of our Healthin30.com readers for your questions.  It’s great that you are researching a health topic, gathering information and obtaining the facts in order for you to make an informed decision.  We are happy that we are able to help guide you.

Please let us know if you have any further questions, comments or concerns.

Best,
Barbara

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