H1N1 Vaccine Hysteria: A Look At The Facts

There’s a disturbing statistic floating about parents’ view of H1N1. According to a recent survey by CS Mott Children’s Hospital, only 40% of parents plan to get their kids the H1N1 shot. The reason: “they are not worried about H1N1”.

This statistic completely stuns me given the amazing amount of coverage and data on H1N1. As a parent and a pediatrician, I’m floored that more parents are unable to see just how serious H1N1 is and why they need to immunize their children for this flu season.

Let’s tease through the facts so you have a better understanding why H1N1 isn’t a virus to take lightly, or for granted:

1. There are two influenza flu seasons occurring at once this year each requiring its own flu shot: seasonal flu and H1N1.

2. Each flu shot is specific for the flu season it is designed to protect against. In other words, the seasonal flu shot will not protect you or your kids against H1N1 and the H1N1 shot will not protect you or your kids against the seasonal flu.

3. The neither flu is not a mild illness. H1N1 is often described as being less intense than the seasonal flu but that does not make it less significant or potentially deadly.

In fact, H1N1 hits people under 24 the hardest with a preference for small kids. For a more visual picture of how H1N1 infects people and causes it’s complications check out these charts from the CDC:

(This chart shows infection rate by age. Not only is the under 24 age group is the group at risk from H1N1 infection by a wide margin but the 0-4 age group is one of the groups at particular risk.)

(Hospitalization rates parallel infection rates with H1N1..under 24 at highest risk with 0-4 most vulnerable.)

(This is the chart we don’t want to consider – the death rate from H1N1. Note that there are documented deaths in all ages with the 0-24 group accounting for close to 20% of the total deaths from this virus.)

The data really speaks for itself. Our healthy kids and young adults are at more risk than other groups from infection and complications from H1N1. As parents, our job is to protect our kids from things they can’t protect themselves from. We can’t keep them from being exposed to H1N1 but we can give their bodies a way to battle it once they come into contact with it. It’s not a matter of if they will be exposed, but when.

Sometimes as parents we have to stop over thinking a situation and do what we have to in order to keep our children safe. I believe this is one of those situations. Instead of questioning data and acting out of fear, we need to start trusting the doctors and scientists working hard to keep our communities safe. After all, they have families and children, too.

My entire family is getting the H1N1 vaccine this year. I believe in this vaccine and it’s safety. Please consider doing the same for your kids.

(Addendum, 10/8/09: much thanks to Universal Hub for pointing out a typo in the last sentence than is now corrected! Dr. Gwenn)

For information on H1N1 and the new school year, click here.

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