About the H1N1 flu vaccine

The Minnesota Department of Health has provided these answers to commonly asked questions about the new vaccine for the H1N1 flu.

Will the seasonal flu vaccine I get every year protect me against H1N1 flu?

No. Seasonal flu is different from H1N1 flu, so the seasonal flu vaccine won’t work against H1N1. You will need to get two different vaccines this year, one for seasonal flu and one for H1N1 flu.

Are there two kinds of vaccine for the H1N1 flu?

Yes, the vaccine can be administered as either a shot or in a nasal mist.

The shot is injected in the arm and contains a dead virus. The inactivated flu injection is appropriate for most people, including people with medical conditions that place them at high risk for complications from influenza, people with weakened immune systems, pregnant women and children ages 6 months and older. (Children ages 6 months through 9 years will need two doses of the H1N1 vaccine.)

The mist vaccine is administered as a nasal spray and contains a weakened virus that cannot grow well in human tissue. Healthy non-pregnant people ages 2 through 49 years old without any chronic health conditions are eligible for flu mist vaccine.

If you have an underlying health condition or a special medical concern, check with your doctor about which vaccine is most appropriate.

If you think you already have had the H1N1 flu, should you still get the vaccine?

Yes. Because most people are not being tested for flu or the precise strain of the virus, it is advisable to get the H1N1 vaccine to be sure of protection from this strain.

Will some people be able to get the H1N1 flu vaccine before others?

Yes. The groups most affected by the disease are getting the H1N1 flu vaccine when it first becomes available. This includes:

Why aren’t older people on the priority list to get the H1N1 flu vaccine?

H1N1 flu seems to affect younger persons more than the elderly. The majority of H1N1 flu cases are in people under age 50. The average age of hospitalization for H1N1 flu is 37 years of age. The Centers for Disease Control expect eventually to have enough vaccine for anyone who wants it.

Am I required to get the H1N1 vaccine?

No. No one is required to get the H1N1 vaccine.

Is the H1N1 flu vaccine experimental?

The H1N1 flu vaccine is just like the seasonal flu vaccine, which is reformulated every year to protect against new flu viruses. This one just happens to be formulated to protect against H1N1 novel flu. It’s manufactured using the same process and facilities. It is in no way "experimental."

How do we know the H1N1 flu vaccine is safe?

The H1N1 flu vaccine has undergone clinical trials to ensure its safety and efficacy for both children and adults, including pregnant women. The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has required the same testing process for the H1N1 flu vaccine as it requires for the seasonal flu vaccine.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) are closely monitoring the situation for any side effect associated with the vaccine.

Can you get H1N1 flu from the vaccine?

No. The virus in the H1N1 flu shot has been killed, so it cannot cause the disease. Some people may get a mild fever for a short time immediately after getting a flu shot. This does not mean you have gotten the flu from the vaccine. If you get the vaccine in nasal spray form ("FluMist"), the virus will be alive but weakened, so it can’t grow in the lungs and cause illness. Repeated studies have shown that the live nasal vaccine will not cause illness.

Some people are under the impression that they may have gotten the flu from a flu shot; however, it’s important to remember that flu vaccinations are usually given at the same time of year when colds and other viruses are circulating, so it’s easy to mistake something else for the flu.

For more information about the vaccine, visit the Minnesota Department of Healths website.

Last updated May 8, 2012