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Tracking Swine Flu Vaccine Side Effects

September 28, 2009

Health authorities are stepping up their tracking methods for the new H1N1 vaccine in order to determine whether or not it is safe.

Officials say they realize that with a great number of people being vaccinated next month, some may experience unrelated health problems and report them as side effects of the vaccine.

“Every day, bad things happen to people. When you vaccinate a lot of people in a short period of time, some of those things are going to happen to some people by chance alone,” Dr. Daniel Salmon, Vaccine Safety Specialist with the Department of Health and Human Services, told the Associated Press.

However, by creating a more comprehensive network to monitor the vaccine, researchers hope to be able to determine any possible side effects.

Experts are predicting huge numbers of the population will show up to be vaccinated, but that could all depend on whether or not the public deems the vaccine to be safe.

So, officials believe the network of information will be crucial in not only monitoring the vaccine, but also ensuring the public of its safety.

The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention has created a list of statistics of certain health problems. For example, an estimated 25,000 heart attacks occur every week, as well as 14,000 to 19,000 miscarriages, and 300 allergic reactions known as anaphylaxis.

By gathering this information prior to the vaccine’s release, the CDC can look for any noticeable increase in the number of these occurrences, which may point to vaccine side effects.

The CDC is also creating cards that will be handed out to people who receive vaccinations that will inform them of ways to report possible side effects to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting system.

Additionally, at least 100,000 people who receive the vaccine will also get an email from Johns Hopkins University, which will ask them to report how they are responding to the vaccine.

“We don’t have any reason to expect any unusual problems with this vaccine,” Dr. Neal Halsey, director of the University’s Institute for Vaccine Safety, told the AP.

Also, researchers at Harvard Medical School are developing a network of insurance databases that can hold up to 50 million people who have received vaccinations. The network will allow them to see whether or not those vaccine recipients have had a return visit to the doctor in the weeks following the flu shot administration.

“Part of what we hope is that it will teach us something about how to monitor the safety of all medical products quickly,” said Dr. Richard Platt, population medicine chief at Harvard.

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