Is the Swine Flu Vaccine Safe for Newborns?

One parenting topic that people on both sides can be extremely passionate about is vaccinating children, particularly newborns. Some parents vaccinate their child with every shot available, while others get only a few shots or none at all for their child. Although many of the arguments for and against vaccination are black and white to the parents, there are a few gray areas remaining. These gray areas are most often found in newer vaccines that have not been tested for newborn safety to the satisfaction of all parents.

In 2009, one of the most controversial vaccines is the swine flu or H1N1 vaccine. Many people feel that the vaccine was rushed out without proper study of short and long term side effects, in response to a panic. Others feel the H1N1 vaccine is essential for the health of all people, especially newborns. This leads many parents to ask how they can determine if the swine flu vaccine is safe for newborns?

The first thing you should know as a parent who is considering the swine flu vaccine for her child is that there was such a vaccine in the past. In 1976, a swine flu scare prompted over 40 million Americans to receive the vaccine. The expected outbreak never surfaced, however, and some people who received the 1976 swine flu vaccine became very ill with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a neurological disorder. The swine flu vaccine of 1976 actually was linked to more deaths than the actual swine flu virus was.

The 2009 version of the swine flu vaccine is said to be safer, with fewer side effects. But one major concern of parents is that the vaccine, which is administered in a nasal spray form, is a live vaccine. This means that the live virus itself, not a dead virus, is introduced into your body to prompt the formation of antibodies against the virus. Live vaccines carry more risk than dead or inert ones do.

Another issue many parents are uncomfortable with is the issue of dosing. At various times, the swine flu vaccine was said to require 1, 2, or 3 doses in order to be fully effective. This has led parents to question whether they will be over-vaccinating or under-vaccinating their children when getting the swine flu vaccine.

However, amidst all the confusion, statistics, and conflicting information, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has issued crystal clear official recommendations outlining which patients should get the H1N1 virus as a high priority, which should get it next, and which should not receive it at all. According to the CDC, newborn babies under 6 months of age should not receive vaccines for regular flu or swine flu at all. They are simply too young to be safely vaccinated against these viruses. For this reason, the CDC also recommends that caregivers of children under 6 months of age should be vaccinated to protect the newborns from H1N1 as much as possible.

As strains of viruses and medical recommendations can change from year to year, if swine flu should be an issue in the future, the CDC may begin recommending the swine flu vaccine for children under 6 months of age. However, for this year, you can be confident in your decision to not immunize your newborn against swine flu, as per the recommendation of the CDC.


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