October 7, 2009 / 12:29 PM / 10 years ago

Health secretary tries easing flu vaccine fears

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Wednesday sought to dispel fears about the H1N1 swine flu vaccine, declaring it safe and urging parents to take precautions against the pandemic.

Registered Nurse Regina White-Taylor (L) gives the H1N1 flu vaccine to two-year-old William Skipper at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois October 6, 2009. REUTERS/Frank Polich

“This H1N1 vaccine is being made exactly the way seasonal flu vaccine has been made year in and year out,” Sebelius said on NBC’s “Today” show.

“The adverse effects are minimal compared to what can happen when you get the flu,” she said.

Sebelius was seeking to ease worries about the vaccine to target the new strain of influenza that is spreading around the world and she urged the public to visit flu.gov for more information.

“This definitely is a safe vaccine for people to get,” she said.

Sebelius said it was important to protect the more vulnerable population such as children and pregnant women from the H1N1 flu.

“This flu is a younger person’s flu, kids have no immunity to this flu,” she said.

Children also easily spread viruses to those around them, putting others at risk such as grandparents and baby-sitters, Sebelius said.

“We strongly urge parents to take precautionary steps, the flu kills every year, people get seriously ill, and we’ve got a great vaccine to deal with it,” she said.

Sebelius also said she was “really stunned” that only about 40 percent of U.S. healthcare workers get seasonal flu vaccines. “I’m hopeful that healthcare workers not only take the seasonal but get at the front of the line for H1N1,” she said on CNN.

Reporting by Tabassum Zakaria; Editing by Vicki Allen

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