Posted by: mkirschmd | July 31, 2009

‘Swine Flu’ Vaccine Update: Who’s at risk?

200px-Syringe2[1]The fear of swine flu, the H1N1 virus, has decreased.  A few months ago, the swine flu pandemic was front page news all over the world.   Everyone was worried that he might be struck by this dreaded H1N1 virus.  Many schools were closed and many people avoided public places like the plague

Experts, however, warn us to brace ourselves for an avalanche of H1N1 this fall.  Vaccine manufacturers are working feverishly to develop an effective vaccine.  

Will there be enough vaccine for everyone?

Not at first.   Experts expect that 120 million doses will be available by October, hardly enough to cover all those at risk.  In addition, this supply is less than it looks since 2 shots may be recommended for protection.  However, vaccine manufacturers may not need to cover all those at risk since, in the past, most folks who need a vaccine or a screening medical test don’t bother to get it.  For example, only 40% of Americans and 15% of pregnant women who should receive the regular seasonal ‘flu shot’ actually receive it. As H1N1 vaccine production continues over the next several months, there should be enough for all those who need it and are willing to receive it.  

If there’s not enough vaccine, who will the lucky winners be?

Health authorities will direct vaccines to those at high risk.  These are pregnant women,  health care workers, household contacts and caregivers of infants, children and young adults up to the age of 24 and adults with chronic medical conditions.  Surprising, the elderly are not included in the high risk group as H1N1 does not favor them. 

Will the vaccine be safe and effective?     

The government will try to ensure that the vaccine is safe.  However, like any new medication, sometimes side-effects are not known until it has been in use for some time.  Vaccine effectiveness is tricky to measure againt viruses.  If H1N1 mutates into a different strain, as viruses can, then the vaccine may not be as effective against it.  Health experts will monitor the H1N1 virus very closely.  Vaccine testing on small groups will begin in the near future. 

Will the H1N1 vaccine take the place of the ‘flu shot’? 

No, these are different viruses and your physician may advise you to take both of these vaccines this coming fall.  

Keep in touch with your physician.   If advised, get the H1N1 vaccine.   Unfortunately, the majority of Americans probably won’t bother to get protected.  Don’t follow the crowd.  Roll up your sleeve and give it a shot.

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