Are you planning to give your child a H1N1 vaccine this flu season? As cooler weather approaches and more children spend time indoors, the government is warning Americans to prepare for another epidemic outbreak of the H1N1 virus. Although homeschoolers are significantly reduced in their exposure, many of our children still participate in potential flu-spreading social gatherings, including church groups, music lessons, sports activities, and homeschool co-op outings. However, does this mean they need a vaccination to protect against this viral threat?

Recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, four different Influenza A (H1N1) or swine flu vaccines will soon be available to families in the United States. Although virtually untested, 195 million doses of these vaccines have been ordered by the government for mass vaccinations to begin sometime in mid-October in up to 90,000 sites, including schools and clinics. GlaxoSmithKline, one of the H1N1 vaccine manufacturers, said the "clinical trials will be limited" due to government demands, and "additional studies will therefore be required and conducted after the vaccine is made available." Perhaps the real concern for parents then should be focused on the safety of the vaccine and not on the supply.

According to America's vaccine safety watchdog, the National Vaccine Information Center, the reason to rush new vaccines was started when a national public health emergency was declared on April 26 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. At that time, drug companies were given billions of tax dollars to create experimental swine flu vaccines. Since then, these vaccines have been fast-tracked with only a small number of children and adults tested over the past few weeks before beginning the mass inoculation program.

Currently, President Obama and Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, have strongly recommended the vaccine for the following groups:

• Pregnant women
• Persons between the ages of six months and 24 years old
• Healthcare and emergency medical services personnel
• People living with or caring for children younger than six months of age
• People ages 25 to 64 at high risk due to chronic health disorders or weakened immune systems

So far H1N1 has not been very severe in America. As of July 24, 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there have been 43,771 laboratory confirmed cases with only 5,011 hospitalizations and 302 deaths. Of those hospitalized, 70% of cases had underlying medical conditions. For the most part, many people who contacted the disease experienced symptoms much less severe than the typical seasonal flu.

With all the hype and confusion surrounding the swine flu, it can be difficult for homeschooling parents to make the right decision for their child. Is subjecting your child to a relatively untested vaccine as a preventative measure the best answer for the H1N1 virus? Share your opinions with other homeschool parents in the comment field below.