This week’s guest blogger, Dr. Arlene King, chief medical officer for Ontario, gives her advice on the persistent H1N1 vaccination debate.
I recommend doing research using credible sources and to think through the many different known facts about H1N1. For example, a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that children are twice as likely to become ill with the H1N1 flu. In fact, the hospitalization rate in Ontario was highest among children 14 years old and younger, with the most hospitalizations occurring in the youngest children.
Once children enter daycare, school, or begin playing with groups of other children, their close contact enables the flu virus to spread quickly and easily among them. This helps make children one of the main spreaders of the virus both at school and at home.
We know that the H1N1 vaccine is safe and effective—it is a perfect match to the virus that is circulating. All vaccines authorized for use in Canada have been carefully tested for safety. The H1N1 flu vaccine has been authorized for use based on preliminary clinical trial data. Tens of millions of people have already been immunized against the H1N1 flu around the world and the data continues to show that this vaccine is safe.
We also know that immunization is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. The benefits of immunization—the prevention of serious illness and death— far outweigh any potential risks.
Even though H1N1 flu activity peaked in November and the media is showing much less interest, it’s important to remember that flu season traditionally continues until April. Pandemics generally last 12 to 18 months. So, if your children have not been immunized, it’s not too late to get their H1N1 flu shot.
Now you can get your H1N1 flu shot in more places than ever before. The H1N1 vaccine is available through thousands of health care providers’ offices throughout the province. Many companies and organizations are also offering workplace flu clinics for their employees and pharmacies are starting to offer flu vaccinations too. For more information, visit the Ministry of Health website.