H1N1 (Swine) Flu Vaccine on the Way
< Oct. 07, 2009 > -- As the first doses of the H1N1 swine flu vaccine leave the manufacturers, federal health officials continue to stress the product's safety.
During a press conference Tuesday, the chief of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reiterated that the vaccine is safe and effective with no serious side effects yet reported.
"With the production of this strain [of vaccine], we have cut no corners," says CDC Director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden. "This flu vaccine is made as flu vaccine is made each year, by the same companies, in the same production facilities, with the same procedures, with the same safety safeguards."
"We have had hundreds of millions of people vaccinated against flu with flu vaccine made in this way. That enables us to have a high degree of confidence in the safety of the vaccine," he adds.
Nasal Spray Formula to Arrive First
The first shipments of the H1N1 vaccine (about 2 million doses) have begun to arrive at distribution centers throughout the country. These initial doses are in the form of a nasal spray (FluMist). Healthcare workers, children over 2 years of age, and adults who care for infants are being encouraged to get their vaccinations now, according to the CDC.
Dr. Frieden says the first doses of the injectable version of the vaccine will start shipping next week. The H1N1 virus has not mutated, he adds, so the vaccine should be a good match.
Getting the vaccine distribution up and running is a complex process, according to Dr. Frieden, and there will be glitches in the first few weeks. Already demand is outstripping supply. But, he says, "we expected it to be bumpy in the first few weeks."
The US government is still hoping to have 40 million doses of the vaccine distributed by late October and 190 million doses by the end of this year.
One of the most common myths about getting the H1N1 vaccine is the notion that the H1N1 flu is typically mild, so it is not necessary to get vaccinated, notes Dr. Frieden.
"Flu is not a mild illness," he says. "It can make you pretty sick, knock you out for a day or two or three, it can make you miss school and work. And for too many people it can end up sending them to the hospital, to the intensive-care unit, and, tragically, some people may die from it."
Another concern expressed by some people, says Dr. Frieden, is that the vaccine, which was rushed into testing and production after the H1N1 virus emerged last spring, may be unsafe. The H1N1 vaccine is made the same way as any other flu vaccine, Dr. Frieden states, adding that he has every confidence that it is safe.
Is It too Late to be Vaccinated?
The CDC chief points to what he considers another widespread misconception: Since the H1N1 flu has already started circulating in every state, it is too late to get vaccinated.
"It's too soon to say it's too late. We don't know what the rest of the season will bring," Dr. Frieden says.
In states where the H1N1 flu has been most active, it has affected about 2 percent to 5 percent of the population, leaving most people still susceptible to infection, he says.
"Flu vaccine is our best tool to protect against the flu," Dr. Frieden adds.
Dr. Frieden's remarks coincide closely with statements earlier Tuesday by Gregory Hartl, a spokesman for the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland. He told the Associated Press that only four of 39,000 Chinese who have received the H1N1 vaccine experienced minor side effects such as headache or muscle cramps, and these effects are to be expected.
Hartl said the current H1N1 vaccine formulation ranks among the safest the WHO has seen.
Always consult your physician for more information.
For more information on health and wellness, please visit health information modules on this Web site.
2 Flu Types = 2 Flu Shots
Protect yourself against the seasonal flu by following the same advice you followed last year: Get vaccinated.
What is different about this year’s flu season, however, is that you need two different vaccines - one to protect against the three seasonal flu strains that are circulating and a second vaccine to protect against 2009 H1N1 influenza. The seasonal flu vaccine will not protect you against 2009 H1N1. Likewise, the 2009 H1N1 vaccine is not meant to replace the seasonal flu shot.
During a “normal” flu season, people may be infected by one of several strains of influenza viruses (type A or B) that zero in on the nose, throat, and lungs. The flu can make life miserable for a week or two for many people - and deadly for some. Seasonal flu cases can peak anywhere from late December to early March.
Your best defense against both the seasonal flu and 2009 H1N1 is to get immunized as soon as possible. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several 2009 H1N1 vaccines, and they should be available by mid-October. Ask your physician if the vaccine is available. If it is, your physician can tell you if you should receive a 2009 H1N1 flu shot. For the seasonal flu, you can get vaccinated in one of two ways:
A flu vaccination is most important for children ages 6 months to 19 years old; adults ages 50 and older; pregnant women; anyone with certain chronic diseases; anyone who lives in a nursing home or other long-term care site; health care workers; and people who are in frequent contact with the elderly or chronically ill.
Some people should not be vaccinated for the flu before talking to their health care provider. These are reasons to talk your doctor:
Children younger than 6 months of age should not be immunized against the flu, because the flu vaccines have not been approved for that age group.
Always consult your physician for more information.
(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)