H1N1 flu virus update (09/10/08)
Oct. 8, 2009
FREDERICTON (CNB) - The following update on the H1N1 flu virus was issued by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health for New Brunswick on Thursday, Oct. 8:
- We have moved forward with our seasonal vaccination program, according to plans. It started last week and will run for the month of October. The public awareness piece
accompanying the campaign speaks to those most at risk of developing complications from seasonal influenza. They are: children six-to-23 months old, pregnant women, people
with chronic health conditions, and the elderly. We encourage these groups to get the publicly funded vaccine. A list of clinics by region may be found at www.gnb.ca/flu.
- There has been a frequently referred to, but as-yet unpublished, Canadian study that suggests an association between seasonal flu vaccine and acquiring a mild case of the H1N1
virus. This study is inconsistent with other international studies, and has failed to show a relationship that one causes the other. Both the Public Health Agency of Canada and the
World Health Organization have responded to the study, saying that preliminary data show that there is no link between having a severe bout of pandemic flu and having had a
seasonal flu shot last year. New Brunswick's position on this study has never changed.
- We know that seasonal flu is fatal to 100-150 New Brunswickers each year, and that children are hospitalized by influenza more than any other age group.
- In making decisions for the province, we balanced this known significant risk and a vast body of published research against the results of one unpublished study, and determined
that the best way to protect all New Brunswickers from both diseases was to move ahead with our plans to run a seasonal flu immunization campaign in October, and an H1N1
immunization campaign through November.
- We are running both campaigns because it is the best decision for New Brunswick. We made operational decisions early on that will allow us to have the capacity to offer both
- There has never been a one-size-fits-all approach to seasonal vaccines in Canada, and this year is no different. Provinces and territories have not previously had to administer two
separate flu immunization programs in a single season, and some of the decisions taken on seasonal and H1N1 vaccine timing reflect concerns over logistics, capacity and likely
- The seasonal flu vaccine is safe, and those in the high-risk groups, in particular, should take the steps to receive it as soon as possible.
- There have also been reports and public speculation about the safety of the H1N1 vaccine. The contents of the H1N1 vaccine will protect against contracting H1N1. The included
additives and preservatives are there to help the vaccine work, and are not cause for alarm.
- As a multi-dose vaccine, the H1N1 influenza vaccine will contain a mercury-based preservative called thimerosal to prevent contamination of the vaccine by serious infectious
agents from the growth of bacteria. Thimerosal also has a stabilizing effect on the vaccine, ensuring its effectiveness.
- The seasonal flu vaccine and most hepatitis B vaccines are also multi-dose vaccines, and thimerosal is added during the manufacturing process to maintain sterility of the vaccine.
- There is no safety reason to avoid using vaccines containing thimerosal. The best available scientific evidence to date shows no link between vaccines containing thimerosal and
any adverse health condition, including neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism.
- The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has reviewed the safety of thimerosal and concluded that, "There is no legitimate safety reason to avoid the use of
thimerosal-containing products for children or older individuals, including pregnant women." International bodies, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration, share this opinion.
- Most of the H1N1 vaccine available in New Brunswick will also contain an adjuvant. An adjuvant is a substance that is added to a vaccine in order to boost an individual's
immune response. It also means that less of the virus, or antigen, is needed to make a dose of the vaccine. Unadjuvanted vaccine has no booster element, and more antigen is
needed to create this kind of vaccine.
- By developing an adjuvanted vaccine, Canada has used less of the virus material (antigen), allowing us to immunize more people in a timely manner.
- Adjuvants are not new. Many commonly used vaccines in Canada contain an adjuvant. Adjuvants have been used for several decades to boost immune response to vaccines.
However, adjuvants have not previously been used with influenza vaccines in Canada.
- The WHO has indicated that it has no special concerns about the safety of adjuvanted H1N1 vaccines in general.
- New Brunswickers should continue to protect themselves and those around them by washing their hands thoroughly and often, coughing or sneezing into sleeves, staying home if
sick, and keeping common surfaces clean.
- Persons at high risk of complications from influenza-like illness should seek medical attention promptly. Those at risk include pregnant women, people with underlying medical
conditions such as diabetes, or those with compromised immune systems.
- Persons with influenza-like symptoms should stay home and minimize contact with family members as much as possible. If symptoms worsen, they should visit their physician or
nurse-practitioner, a walk-in clinic or the nearest hospital emergency department.
- It is recommended that persons with influenza-like symptoms limit contact with other people, including other household members until they are free of symptoms and are feeling
- Those experiencing influenza-like illness should consider ending self-isolation when they are able to participate fully in all of their normal daily activities.
- It is important for New Brunswickers to understand that if they do not have influenza-like symptoms it is safe to go to work and school, to participate in activities and to
socialize. More information on the H1N1 flu virus may be found online, or by calling the 24-hour H1N1 line, 1-800-580-0038.
MEDIA CONTACT: Danielle Phillips, media relations, H1N1 Pandemic, Department of Health, 506-444-3821, firstname.lastname@example.org.