H1N1 (Swine Flu): December update
February, 2010 – In Canada and the United States, officials are encouraging people in high-risk groups (including, among others, those with asthma, small children and pregnant women) to get the shot as soon as possible. Check local newspapers and radio to see where the shot is available in your area.
The vaccine was developed using egg, which means traces of egg protein may be in the shot. However, Dr. Wade Watson, a pediatric allergist in Halifax, Canada says the risk of egg reaction to the Canadian-developed vaccine appears to be low. “If patients have had a recent or severe reaction to egg, they should be seen by their allergist to discuss,” he says. “For low-risk groups, they can get their shot in one dose in a place where they can be observed for any reaction, and emergency treatment is available, including epinephrine.” See: Details
Quebec Study of Egg Allergic and Vaccine
A group of allergists in Quebec are studying the tolerance of the H1N1 vaccine in egg-allergic individuals. The CMAJ website reports that in a trial of 952 people, none had an anaphylactic reaction to the shot. Two had skin reactions treated with Benadryl.
Dr. Marie-Noël Primeau of the Montreal Children’s Hospital told Allergic Living that almost 1,500 egg-allergic individuals have now been vaccinated in Quebec, and none has experienced an anaphylactic reaction. All patients were vaccinated under physician supervision in one or two doses, depending on risk.
Dr. Antony Ham Pong, an allergist based in Ottawa, has been vaccinating allergic patients in his clinic (90 per cent egg-allergic, some with other concerns such as thimerosal, formaldehyde, or problems with other flu vaccines). Out of 400 patients, two had skin reactions to the vaccine. “My experience suggests it is reasonably safe,” says Ham Pong.
On December 4, the Public Health Agency of Canada reported that, as of November 20, there were more than 170 reports of allergic reactions to the H1N1 vaccine across Canada (the triggers aren’t known, but are likely not egg, as those with egg allergies would be turned away at public vaccination clinics), with symptoms including hives, swelling, tingling of the lips or tongue, and nausea. There were 48 confirmed cases of anaphylaxis. This represents a rate of 0.39 per 100,000 doses, considered an acceptable level.
Fish, Other Allergies
The vaccine adjuvant contains two ingredients that have raised concern for allergic individuals: squalene (shark liver oil) and tocopherol (sometimes derived from soybean oil or seeds). It appears there is no risk to those with any of these allergies. Details
There is no specific reason for a person with asthma not to get the H1N1 shot. In fact, asthmatics are at a higher risk of having complications from the disease leading to hospitalization and death. See: U.S. study finds 26% of adults hospitalized for H1N1 have asthma.
Be aware, however, that one of the anti-viral drugs that may be prescribed if you contract the flu, Relenza, is not recommended for those with asthma.
See: H1N1 and asthma
- Vaccine and Anti-Viral Drug Ingredients – What they contain.
- H1N1 and Food Allergies – Allergic Living’s extensive FAQ.
- Health Canada info – Full product leaflet on the H1N1 vaccine.
- Discussion on H1N1 & Allergies – read Forum’s views.
- H1N1 and Asthma – Cautions about the flu with respiratory disease.
- Warning Signs of Severe Flu – From The Lung Association of Canada.
- Incidence of H1N1, Fatalities in Canada – Public Health Agency of Canada.
- CDC Resource Center – All About the H1N1 flu, the vaccine, actions to take.
- Taking Care of the H1N1 sufferer.
- CDC on medications.