We understand that guidance about swine flu vaccination for children will be issued soon. In the meantime, here is Government information to answer common questions and rumours.
Myth 1: Swine flu isn’t that serious so there’s no need to get vaccinated.
Swine flu causes mild symptoms in most people, generally lasting for about a week, but those with a long term medical condition are more likely to be seriously ill with swine flu. Those at particular risk include people with long-term health conditions such as diabetes, chronic heart, kidney, liver or neurological diseases like multiple sclerosis, pregnant women or those whose immune system is affected by a disease or treatment for a disease. In some cases, people may need to be treated in hospital for complications such as pneumonia or difficulty breathing, and in the very worst cases, may die.
Myth 2: The vaccine hasn’t been properly tested and isn’t safe for people who have been identified as in an ‘at-risk’ group.
The vaccines have been licensed by the European authorities and would not have been if they were considered unsafe. In preparing for a pandemic, appropriate clinical trials to assess safety have been carried out on vaccines very similar to the swine flu vaccine. The vaccines have been shown to have a good safety profile.
Scientific evidence from trials suggest the risk of a serious reaction is extremely small – and far outweighed by the risk of someone with an underlying health condition becoming seriously ill from the swine flu virus itself.
Myth 3: The vaccine isn’t safe for people in at-risk groups who have an egg allergy.
There are two versions of the swine flu vaccine, one of which – Celvapan – has been especially created without the use of hens’ eggs, so that it is safe for people with a severe allergic reaction to egg products.
Myth 4: The vaccine will give people in at-risk groups swine flu.
The vaccine does not carry a ‘live’ virus, so it cannot give swine flu to the person being vaccinated. Some people 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 5: There’s no need for people in at-risk groups to get the vaccine if they think they’ve already had swine flu.
Unless a case of swine flu has been confirmed by a laboratory test, most people cannot be certain that they have had the disease, or that they will be protected if the virus mutates. People who have one of the long-term health conditions deemed a priority are therefore recommended to receive the vaccination unless they have had a positive test for swine flu.
Myth 6: People in at-risk groups who already have the seasonal flu jab don’t need the swine flu vaccine.
The seasonal flu vaccination will not protect people against swine flu. People in the at-risk groups for the swine flu vaccine should get both jabs to ensure they are protected against both swine flu and the other flu strains in circulation.
Myth 7: People in at-risk groups who don’t usually catch the flu, won’t catch swine flu.
Swine flu is caused by a new strain of the influenza virus called H1N1. Because it is a new type of flu virus, no one has immunity to it and everyone could be at risk of catching and spreading it.
Myth 8: People in at-risk groups need to stay off work or school 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 person infectious.
Myth 9: There’s no point getting the vaccine as it won’t help people in at-risk groups if the swine flu virus mutates.
While it is impossible to predict if or how the virus will change, experience with the similar vaccine for the bird flu (H5N1) strain suggests the swine flu vaccine would provide a high level of protection from closely related strains.
Myth 10: The health workers that those at-risk come in to contact with for their condition will have been vaccinated, so there’s no need to get the jab.
Having the vaccine is a personal choice, even for health care professionals, so you cannot be sure that those treating you are not carrying the infection.