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Time to Ensure Children Are Immune to H1N1

February 2, 2010

school childrenUnlike with seasonal flu that tends to be more severe for older generations, H1N1 disproportionately impacted children and young adults. The younger demographic groups—children from six months to 18 years of age, and college-age children—were among the initial target groups for the vaccine.

But there are major issues and hurdles to overcome surrounding the H1N1 vaccine and children. Some parents may still be hesitant to vaccinate their children because of a fear that additives to vaccines may cause short- or long-term side effects. 

To address this issue, the CDC has consistently been communicating the safety of the H1N1 vaccine, which underwent the same stringent testing as previous flu vaccines. The pediatric doses of H1N1 do not contain thimerasol, an organic compound containing mercury that is used as a preservative in many vaccines.

Another important consideration for immunizing children against H1N1 is ensuring that they have received their booster shots. As reported in January by USA TODAY, thousands of children who received the vaccine have yet to receive the second dose that is required for children six months to nine years old.

States are beginning to remind parents and others that younger children are now due back for their second dose of vaccine. The CDC recommends a waiting period of 28 days between the doses. In South Bend, IN, school nurses are contacting parents to remind them that their children may be due for the second dose. Parents are being told to bring their child to the health department or to their health practitioner in order to receive the vaccine. 

School-Located Vaccine Clinics Continuing

Many counties and local health departments are continuing their drive to have children and students vaccinated through school-based clinics.

The Metro Health Department in Nashville, TN, is working on boosting rates of vaccination among middle and high school students. After an initial interest in September when half of the young demographic signed up to receive the vaccine, rates have dropped considerably.

Meanwhile, officials in Fayette County, KY, plan on setting up shop in vaccine clinics at every school in the county in the coming weeks.

Lessons Learned

The H1N1 pandemic is an opportunity to relay the importance of influenza vaccination for children and young people. While H1N1 may have had a disproportionate impact on young people, the seasonal flu can also cause severe illness and sometimes death among this group.

In an op-ed for The Houston Chronicle, Dr. Carol Baker, immediate past president of the  National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and chair of the CDC''s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, emphasizes that a yearly vaccination is the only means of immunizing children against the seasonal flu.

She also points out that H1N1 demonstrated the dramatic impact that influenza can have on people and communities.

“Ever since the new H1N1 virus started making people ill last spring, it has become harder for parents in my practice to shrug off influenza as ‘not much more than a cold,’” wrote Baker. “We''ve seen what flu can do: close schools and camps; send sales of surgical masks and anti-bacterial gels through the roof; overburden hospital emergency rooms; cause death—not among the elderly but in children and pregnant women.”

Our Questions to You

Has the H1N1 pandemic changed people’s perceptions of the flu? Do you think it has made parents more or less willing to vaccinate their children against seasonal flu in this and future years?


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