Myth Busters: Swine Flu

Myth:              Swine flu isn’t that serious for
children over six months and under five so there’s no need to get them vaccinated.

Swine flu causes mild symptoms in most people, generally lasting for about a week, but, there are particularly high hospital admission rates in children under-five and a higher proportion of this age group are admitted to intensive care.
Myth:              The vaccine hasn’t been properly tested and isn’t safe for children aged over six months and under five years.

The vaccines have been licensed for use in children over the age of six months by the European authorities and would not have been if they were considered unsafe.

Scientific evidence from trials suggest the risk of a serious reaction is extremely small – and far outweighed by the risk of a child under the age of five becoming seriously ill from the swine flu virus itself.
Myth:              The vaccine isn’t safe for my child as it contains mercury.

Pandemrix contains very small quantities of a preservative called thiomersal that contains mercury, which has been used in vaccines for over 60 years to prevent contamination and keep them safe.

The World Health Organization and UK Commission on Human Medicine have found no evidence of health risks linked to thiomersal, including to children aged over six months.
Myth:              The vaccine isn’t safe for children who have an egg allergy.

There are two versions of the swine flu vaccine, one of which – Celvapan by Baxter – has been created without the use of hens’ eggs, so that it is safe for children with a severe allergic reaction to egg products.
Myth:              The vaccine will give my child swine flu.

The vaccine does not carry a ‘live’ virus, so it cannot give swine flu to the child being vaccinated. Some children may experience mild symptoms like fever, headache and muscle aches as their immune system responds to the vaccine, but this is not flu and will usually disappear in one or two days without treatment.
Myth:              My child isn’t six months old yet, but I should get them vaccinated anyway.

The vaccine is not being offered to babies under six months old as there is insufficient evidence about the immune responses in children of this age, and studies are complicated because they are having many other vaccines at that time.
Myth:              There’s no need for my child aged over six months and under five to get the vaccine if I think they’ve already had swine flu.

Unless a case of swine flu has been confirmed by a laboratory test, people cannot be certain that their child has had the disease, or that they will be protected if the virus mutates.  Parents of those aged over six months and under five years are therefore recommended to have their child vaccinated unless they have had a positive test for swine flu – if a test didn’t confirm swine flu, and they did actually have it, being vaccinated won’t do them any harm.
Myth:              If a child has had the seasonal flu jab, they don’t need the swine flu vaccine.

The seasonal flu vaccination will not protect against swine flu.  All children aged over six months in the at-risk group for the seasonal flu jab should also get the swine flu vaccine to ensure they are protected against both swine flu and the other flu strains in circulation.
Myth:              Children need to stay at home after receiving the vaccine.

Those receiving the vaccination can return to their normal routine straight after the jab or in between doses if two are required.  As the vaccines do not contain a live virus they do not make a child infectious.
Myth:              If a child aged over six months and under five years doesn’t usually catch the flu, they won’t catch swine flu.

Swine flu is caused by a new strain of the influenza virus called H1N1.  Because it is a new strain of flu virus, no child aged over six months and under five years has immunity to it and could be at risk of catching and spreading it.
Note               This article is similar to one we published two months ago which contained advice for adults.

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