The country’s chief public health officer says few Canadians have suffered serious side effects from the swine-flu shot.
Dr. David Butler-Jones says that of the 6.5 million people who have received the H1N1 vaccine, only 36 have had serious adverse reactions.
“With any vaccination campaign, we expect to see some cases of serious adverse events,” he said. “They are very rare, but they are part of all mass-vaccination campaigns and we expect to see a small number of them.”
More serious reactions can include life-threatening illnesses, hospitalizations, disabilities or deaths.
One person is believed to have died from a serious reaction to the vaccine, Butler-Jones said, but the death hasn’t yet been conclusively linked to the flu shot. He said it’s possible the elderly person who died suffered from an underlying condition.
All the serious side effects came after shots of the adjuvanted vaccine, which contains a compound to boost the vaccine’s potency. Butler-Jones said that’s likely because the vast majority of people being vaccinated are getting the adjuvanted vaccine.
A version of the vaccine without the booster is being held for pregnant women.
Butler-Jones said the serious side effects from the H1N1 shot fall into two categories: allergic reactions, or fevers and convulsions.
Mild effects, such as nausea, soreness, headaches and fever, are far more common reactions to the swine-flu shot – just as they are for all vaccines.
The federal government says it will list adverse reactions to the H1N1 vaccine on its www.fightflu.ca website.
So far, 198 people have died of swine flu. By comparison, seasonal flu kills between 4,000 to 8,000 Canadians each year.