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Swine Flu Vaccination    

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Overview of swine flu vaccine

The best way to prevent novel H1N1 swine flu is through vaccination. The vaccines that are available for swine flu are different from that offered for seasonal flu. The vaccine for seasonal flu does not provide protection against swine flu. Hence, a person vaccinated for seasonal flu should also be vaccinated for swine flu separately.

The vaccines that have been developed for this purpose are Pandemrix and Celvapan. Pandemix is given in a single dose. However, Celvapan is given in two doses, with a time gap of three weeks.


At risk group for swine flu

The medical association has separated an ‘at risk group’ who are to be vaccinated first. Some of these people are most likely to become seriously ill if they catch swine flu. 

Pregnant women: Pregnant women are at high risk of developing serious complications in case of swine flu infection. Research has shown that pregnant women are four times more likely to develop serious complications from swine flu and up to five times more likely to be hospitalized. The risk is the highest at the later stages of pregnancy. Hence, pregnant women should be vaccinated on a priority basis at any stage of pregnancy. 

Adults and children over six months of age suffering from long-term health conditions like:
  • Chronic neurological diseases like stroke, Parkinson's disease, cerebral palsy, motor neurone disease or multiple sclerosis.
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Chronic lung diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic bronchitis and cystic fibrosis. People suffering from severe asthma who need to continuously or repeatedly use their inhaler or take steroid medication are also included.
  • Chronic heart diseases like heart failure and congenital heart disease. This group also includes people with heart diseases caused by high blood pressure.
  • Chronic kidney diseases like kidney failure or people with kidney transplantation.
  • Chronic liver diseases like cirrhosis and chronic hepatitis.

Adults and children over six months of age with immune suppression: Immune suppression is caused by a prevailing disease or by the treatment for the prevailing disease. Like for example, a person without a spleen on immunosuppressant treatment and is on high doses of systemic steroids. 

People who live in the same house with someone whose immune system has been weakened by disease or treatment related to the disease. Like for example, people living with cancer patients or AIDS patients.


  • Healthcare and emergency medical services personnel
  • Household contacts and caregivers for children younger than 6 months of age
  • All people from 6 months through 24 years of age
  • People aged 25 through 64 years with health conditions associated with higher risk of medical complications from influenza
  • The ‘at risk group’


The vaccine scheduled as recommended in UK is:
  • All children aged over six months and below 10 years: Two doses of 0.5ml given at least three weeks apart. 
  • All children aged 10 years and over as well as adults: Two doses of 0.5ml given at least three weeks apart.
  • Healthy children aged over six months and below 10 years: A single dose of 0.25ml.
  • Immuno compromised children aged over six months and below 10 years: Two doses of 0.25ml given at least three weeks apart.
  • Healthy children aged 10 years and over as well as healthy adults: A single dose of 0.5ml.
  • Immuno compromised children aged 10 years and over as well as immune compromised adults: Two doses of 0.5ml given at least three weeks apart.


Effectiveness of the vaccine

The swine flu prototype vaccines that have been clinically tested have produced good immune system responses. They also have an acceptable safety profile.

The swine flu vaccine should be able to provide effective protection against the pandemic strain of swine flu for several years following vaccination. These vaccines also provide effective protection against the serious effects of swine flu. Apart from these, the vaccines help in reducing the risk of pandemic by reducing the spread of the infection.

Side effects of swine flu vaccine

The swine flu vaccines like all other vaccines may produce side-effects like redness, soreness and swelling at the site of the injection. At times they also produce symptoms like fever, headache and muscle aches. However, the intensity of these side effects are much lesser than the flu itself and only last a day or so.


Safety Issue

Pandemrix and Celvapan are both licensed by established medical associations. Similar vaccines containing other flu virus strain like H5N1 have been clinically tested in trials on 5,000 plus people, which included older people. Before licensing the vaccines, the European Commission have carefully considered all the research results, evidences and have thereafter recommended that they are safe.

The trials have also shown that people tolerated the vaccines well and have produced enough antibodies in order to provide protection against the targeted flu. Research has also shown that by changing the strain of virus in a vaccine the safety profile of the vaccines is not substantially affected.

Written by: Healthplus24 team
Date last updated: September 27, 2012

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