The H1N1 Shot - To Get or Not to Get

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There is a lot of confusion about the H1N1 swine flu shot. There is confusion, demand, and fear. I have written a column about my own experience dispensing the vaccine and trying to decide who should get it. My column is in today's LA Timesdescribes how I temporarily lost my cool with someone who was demanding the vaccine and might or might not have needed it. I also received a very poignant email from a 68 year old heard transplant patient in Pennsyvania who says he cannot get the vaccine despite a compromised immune system because he is more than 64 years old.

I would also like to bust a few myths regarding the vaccine:

  • The vaccine is safe. It has been given to millions around the world so far and has been very well tolerated. No cases of Guillain Barre Syndrome (ascending paralysis) have yet been conclusively linked to the vaccine.
  • The GSK vaccine Pandemrix, which uses a squalene adjuvant (additive) so that less vaccine material is needed to provide immunity, has been linked to allergic reactions and is being withdrawn in Canada, is not approved for use in the U.S.
  • The vaccine is a very good match for the virus. The prevailing novel A H1N1 swine flu strain has not changed significantly in structure since returning in force from the Southern Hemisphere and bringing the "second wave" which we are still in the middle of.
  • High priority groups are still pregnant women, children, those with chronic conditions, and health care workers. The elderly appear to have some immunity from exposure to previous flu viruses, but as more vaccine becomes available, the guidelines are being liberalized, and more will be able to receive it.

Dr. Marc Siegel is an internist and associate professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine. He is a FOX News medical contributor and writes a health column for the LA Times, where he examines TV and movies for medical accuracy. Dr. Siegel's new Ebook: Swine Flu; the New Pandemic, will be published in early October. Dr. Siegel is also the author of "False Alarm: The Truth About the Epidemic of Fear"and "Bird Flu: Everything You Need to Know About the Next Pandemic."Read more at