There are times when I wonder whether we’re really living in the 21st century. I’ve been having that feeling a lot recently, observing other parents (both online and off) discuss whether or not getting the H1N1 “Swine Flu” vaccine for their kids is a good idea.
I’m going to put it to you straight: Unless your child has a specific condition that makes it a bad idea for them to have the vaccine (and your pediatrician should be able to tell you if that’s the case), yes, you absolutely should get him/her vaccinated against H1N1. One of those conditions is a severe allergy to eggs, because in years past, all flu vaccines were based in egg serum. This year, some vaccine production will use a cell-culture process instead and thus be safe for those with egg allergies; your pediatrician might be able to help ensure that a dose of that variety is available for your child if necessary.
You may have read or seen various members of the “antivax” crowd saying that the H1N1 vaccine is as evil as they think most other vaccines are. Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer, wrote an excellent article in August about these claims. Suffice it to say, any risk there may be of getting sick from the vaccine is so infinitesimal that the risk of getting H1N1 far, far outweighs it. Any time you see something written by one of the antivaxxers, consider whether the source is using scientific reasoning or not, because most of the time you’ll find their arguments hold less water than a sieve.
So please, for your kids’ sake, for your sake, and for the sake of your kids’ classmates, get your kids vaccinated against H1N1.
Update: There is a lot of misinformation floating around about the vaccine containing live virus. It is true that the nasal “FluMist” version of the vaccine does contain a form of the live virus that has been modified in the lab so it cannot infect anyone. To be on the safe side, the CDC does recommend that pregnant women, very young children and people with compromised immune systems not receive the nasal vaccine. The shot form of the vaccine contains only dead virus, thus is incapable of infecting anyone at all. The CDC’s website has a great deal of information for anyone with concerns.
Update 2: Five pertinent Wired Magazine articles are now available on Wired.com: