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Doctor: Parents Should Immunize Children Against H1N1

by ABC-7 Reporter/Anchor Celina Avila

EL PASO, Texas — The swine flu epidemic we’ve all been getting ready for is here.

But as the virus continues to spread, there are still many questions about why it becomes deadly.

The Centers for Disease Control says infants, teens and young adults are more likely to come down with the virus because they’re often in close contact with so many other people.

Doctors say they struggle with it more because they just haven’t built the same immunity older generations have over the years.

While there will be tears initially, in the long run experts say children, like nine-month-old Sebastian, stand to benefit the most from the swine flu vaccine.

“The people who are at most risk are the younger babies, like the one that died,” said Dr. Gilbert Handel, a professor of pediatrics with a specialty in infectious diseases at Texas Tech University. He explained most children are very vulnerable to the H1N1 virus because they’ve never been exposed to the flu vaccine, like most adults.

“Just last year or the year before that, we started immunizing babies, before that we didn’t even immunize them for the flu,” said Handel.

Vaccinations against swine flu began this week and so far, demand is exceeding supply.

The Henderson clinic ran out of all of its free vaccines in less than a week.

“The truth is that this vaccine is as effective as the regular season vaccine,” said Handel, who stresses to parents that safety worries over the swine flu vaccine do not outweigh the need for it. “They really are irrational.”

Especially, he says, since there’s a much better chance children will get sick from the flu than the vaccine.

“This vaccine does not have any other side effects than the other regular flu vaccine,” said Handel.

He says it’s important for parents to watch their children’s symptoms carefully and to vaccinate them as early as six months old. Handel said symptoms to watch out for are persistent diarrhea and consistent vomiting.

If you’re wondering about side effects, Handel said test results are still trickling in, but so far no serious problems have been reported.

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