Effects of Acetaminophen on Adverse Effects of Influenza Vaccination in Health Care Workers

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Abstract

Objective

To evaluate the effects of acetaminophen on the incidence of adverse effects to, and the immunogenicity of, whole-virus influenza vaccine in health care workers.

Design

Prospective, randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial.

Setting

Health Sciences Centre, an acute care teaching hospital in Winnipeg.

Participants

Of 474 hospital personnel who agreed to undergo influenza vaccination during the 1990-91 season 262 volunteered to participate in the study.

Interventions

A dose of 0.5 mL of inactivated trivalent whole-virus influenza vaccine was injected into the deltoid muscle. Volunteers were randomly assigned to ingest two capsules of acetaminophen in a half dose (162.5 mg per capsule) or a full dose (325 mg per capsule) or two identical placebo capsules. Capsules were to be taken at vaccination and at 4, 8 and 12 hours afterward. Subjects were asked to answer questions regarding six symptoms in a diary for the 3 days after vaccination and to record their ingestion of the study medication.

Main outcome measures

Incidence of local (sore arm) and systemic (headache, fever, muscle ache, nausea and diarrhea) side effects as well as serum titres of hemagglutination inhibition (HAI) antibody to vaccine antigens before vaccination and 2 weeks and 6 months afterward.

Results

A total of 87, 87 and 88 subjects received the half dose, full dose and placebo respectively; 96% returned the diaries, 83% ingested all four doses of medication, and 87% volunteered all blood samples. Compared with the placebo group the incidence of sore arm was 25% to 28% lower in the half-dose and full-dose groups respectively at 24 hours after vaccination, and the rate of nausea was 90% lower in the full-dose group. The HAI titres were similar among the groups at the three test times.

Conclusions

The full dose of acetaminophen significantly reduced the incidence of sore arm and nausea without affecting the antibody response. Acetaminophen use may increase the acceptance of influenza vaccine by health care workers in whom concern about side effects is an impediment to vaccination.

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