H1N1 flu vaccine safe, California and CDC data show

At the height of fears over H1N1 flu this fall, some vaccination foes claimed it was safer to get illness than to be inoculated against it. But data from California show that getting the flu was drastically far more dangerous, USA TODAY reported Feb. 7.

One in every 10,000 Californians who contracted H1N1 died, statistics from the State Department of Health show.

Out of 13 million Californians who were vaccinated for H1N1, three people died. In one case, the patient already had the flu and a streptococcus infection when vaccinated. One was a cardiac patient whose death the coroner ruled was related to pre-existing heart problems. Health officials are still reviewing the final case.

So the death rate for those vaccinated at the highest is one in 4.3 million, and more likely either one in 13 million or even 0 in 13 million, depending on what a review of that patient's medical chart finds.

For people still hesitant about getting vaccinated, this is excellent news, says Carol Glaser, a viral-disease expert with the Department of Public Health's Center for Infectious Diseases in Richmond, Calif.

When parents who are wary of vaccinating their children come to her clinic, she tells them there's no reason to worry: "You now have the luxury of 3½ months of data that couldn't be more reassuring."

Nationwide, with more than 120 million doses of H1N1 vaccine distributed, 8,294 "adverse events" have been reported to the CDC. But 94 percent of them were classified as "non-serious," such as soreness at the injection site or a tingling in the arm. The 6 percent "serious" adverse events are about the same as seasonal flu, Glaser says.

"This is a very safe vaccine," said Dr. Anne Schuchat of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "We have an awful lot of data, unprecedented amounts of data about the safety right now. And I think that parents really should be reassured."