Swine flu vaccine, is it safe?

Date: 20 Jan, 2010
Posted by: admin
In: hints & tips|life & family

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Some informational pages on swine flu vaccination in the UK.

UK swine flu vaccination

The NHS website offers a pretty comprehensive list of FAQ on swine flue vaccination on their website.

There are 2 vaccines being used in the UK are Pandemrix by GSK and Celvapan by Baxter (Wikipedia links). Here’s some information and links.

If you prefer a pictorialised version of information, which appears to be largely accurate (though I did notice one inaccuracy with respect to a “chicken products” comment) then this H1n1 Swine Flu Vacccination visual is pretty good.


  • Healthy children aged over six months and below 10 years:
    – a single dose of 0.25ml.
  • Immunocompromised children aged over six months and below 10 years:
    – two doses of 0.25ml given at least three weeks apart.
  • Healthy children aged 10 years and over or healthy adults:
    – a single dose of 0.5ml.
  • Immunocompromised children aged 10 years and over or immunocompromised adults:
    – two doses of 0.5ml given at least three
    weeks apart.

Pandemrix is this mainly a single shot vaccine. The ingredients include an immunologic adjuvant, which aids the immune response and reduces the amount of vaccine required, along with standard vaccine elements. One of the more controversial factors is Thiomersal.


Thiomersal has been associated by some with increased autism risk being common in childhood vaccinations. It is 49% mercury by weight. However this factor was removed from US vaccinations and there has not been a resulting decline in autism cases there.

Other ingredients are sodium deoxycholate (an immunostimulant and aid to absorption), sucrose and formaldehyde.

Pandermix does include egg extracts and as such may have traces of egg protein which could induce an allergic reaction in those with an egg allergy.

Side effects

Side effects are given in the GSK Pandemrix insert leaflet and also summarised in the Wikipedia article:

  • Very common (affects more than 1 in 10 people[citation needed]):
    • Headache
    • Tiredness
    • Pain, redness, swelling or a hard lump at the injection site
    • Fever
    • Aching muscles, joint pain
  • Common (affects at least 1 in 100[citation needed]):
    • Warmth, itching or bruising at the injection site
    • Increased sweating, shivering, flu-like symptoms
    • Swollen glands in the neck, armpit or groin
  • Uncommon (affects at least 1 in 1,000[citation needed]):
    • Tingling or numbness of the hands or feet
    • General constitutional upset of sleepiness or sleeplessness, generally feeling unwell, dizziness.
    • Diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach pain, feeling sick
    • Skin reactions of itching, rash or urticaria (hives)
  • Rare (affects at least 1 in 10,000[citation needed]):
    • Serious generalised allergic reactions of anaphylaxis
    • Fits
    • Severe stabbing or throbbing pain along one or more nerves
    • Low blood platelet count which can result in bleeding or bruising
  • Very Rare (affects less than 1 in 10,000 people[citation needed]):
    • Vasculitis
    • Neurological disorders such as encephalomyelitis, neuritis or Guillain–Barré syndrome temporary paralysis


  • All children aged over six months and below 10 years:
    – two doses of 0.5ml given at least three weeks apart.
  • All children aged 10 years and over or adults:
    – two doses of 0.5ml given at least three weeks apart.

Celvapan is only being given as a flu vaccination in Wales to those with a confirmed allergy to egg proteins.

Flu vaccination articles

Various UK media have written articles in the last few months  about swine flue and the vaccination programme:

In addition DirectGov have a page on “Pandemic Flu” with links to the regional centres to contact for further information.

Personal response

Make your own decisions on whether you or you children should have the vaccine.

I’m close to thinking it’s not required for our L (9 months) as he’s healthy and the potential side-effects seem quite severe, possibly worse than the effects of having the current strain of the flu itself; but this is always the case, nearly every medicine has the potential for sever side effects. Moreover the H1N1 strain appears to be less severe than was anticipated causing countries to cancel shipments from GSK of flu vaccinations.

The weight of medical advice is in favour of vaccination but there is also the consideration as to the reason for that medical advice. Clearly in order to avoid a pandemic damaging the whole population the vaccine is a good thing and so health professionals with an eye to this would still be likely to recommend a vaccine which was potentially damaging to the individual.

My main reservation is probably that the vaccination was initially developed for H5N1 and because of the speed with which it has been produced and used there has been no opportunity for long term study of potential side-effects.

The recent evidence on Thiomersal appears to show that isn’t an issue any more.

There has been 1 report of death associtated with Pandemrix and 1329 reports of adverse reactions versus about 2 Million vaccinations. The WHO reports about 1000 deaths up to December 2009 from H1N1 virus in Europe, 28 in Wales,  and predictions are that there will be no third wave of the H1N1 pandemic in the UK.

So, supposing we choose to vaccinate, there are long term negative effects of the vaccine and there is no third wave of infections thus meaning L was unlikely to need inoculation? Sur le contra-main, suppose we don’t inoculate and he gets sick, possibly sick enough to get pneumonia but probably not really poorly for more than a day?

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