As Minnesota officials announce four more deaths from H1N1, Flu.gov is hosting a webcast with the latest information on the H1N1 flu vaccine. The experts are: Dr. Anne Schuchat, Director, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Dr. Gloria Addo Ayensu, MD, MPH, Director of the Fairfax County Department of Health, Fairfax, Virginia; Dr. Pierre Vigilance, Director, District of Columbia Department of Health, Washington, DC.
Here are the highlights.
Q: What do you need to do at vaccine clinics to prove you’re in the “risk” groups.
A: It’s an honor system. We publish the target groups but we don’t check. We hope people will do the right thing and if they’re not part of the high-risk category (currently children, health-care workers etc.), they’ll wait their turn.
Q: How long do people have to wait once a clinic has been announced?
People have been lining up a couple of hours ahead of time (in DC). People who show up once a vaccine session starts don’t have to wait so long.
Q Why has there been a delay?
A: Flu vaccines are made in a method that’s tried and true, but not reliable. The viruses that are inoculated into eggs were growing too slowly — more slowly than expected. So the initial amounts that we had aren’t what we hoped. We don’t know exactly when the amount of vaccine “out there” will be enough. It may be things get better sooner in one area than another. Demand can change all the time.
Q: When will communities see more vaccine?
A: More is hard to quantify (huh?). It could be “some time” before the amounts that are out in communities feel very ample.
Q: If my child has been diagnosed with the flu, should she still get the H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccine?
A: Even if you believe your child has had the H1N1 flu, getting vaccinated makes sense. If you know your child has had H1N1 — through state labs — then the child probably wouldn’t need the vaccine.
This year the seasonal flu vaccine has been in short supply, too. But getting the H1N1 flu ivaccine is more important. For seniors, the seasonal flu vaccine is important.
Q: Are you worried about running out of anti-viral medicine?
A: The commercial supply for adults is good right now. The availability for children has been spotty but getting better. We’ve released the liquid form of Tamiflu. There’s also capsules that can be turned into pediatric doses by pharmacists, mixing adult capsules into liquid that children can have.
Q: If my children and I have asthma but we can’t get vaccine in our community, should we go to a neighboring state?
A: Yes. But check with private providers and state health departments first.
Q: Why was decision made to put out vaccine when you knew there would be shortages?
A: We had a choice to make between protecting people and having things be neat and orderly. We couldn’t tolerate withholding a vaccine that could protect some people.
Q: If a young child misses the window for the second dose, should they start over?
A: No, if you miss the four-week mark, it’s OK. What you don’t want is to get the second dose too soon. Two doses are needed in children under 10.
Q: Are health care workers considered a priority at clinics if vaccine isn’t available at work?
Q: What can we be doing to protect ourselves while we wait for more vaccine to become available?
A: The ones we’ve been recommending: Cover your mouth, wash your hands, stay home if you’re sick, get a seasonal flu shot.
Q: What’s the difference between the mist and a shot?
A: The shot it is made from a killed virus. Mist is a virus that is diluted. Anyone over six months can get the shot. If you have an egg allergy , we recommend you not receive the vaccine.
Q: How can I be sure the vaccine is safe?
A: It’s made the same way as seasonal flu vaccine. We’re using the same processes and the same companies. 100 million people get the flu vaccine every year and we have an excellent safety record. We’ve increased safety monitoring. The risk from the flu is very real.
Q: How can you tell the difference between seasonal flu and H1N1?
A: The population affected by H1N1 is a younger than those affected by seasonal flu.
Q: Would someone with a suppressed immune system, would it be better to get two shots?
A: One dose should be fine. H1N1 vaccines in clinical trials have worked really well.
Q: Do children have some protection against H1N1 between the time they get the first dose and the second dose?
A: Yes, but only a little.
Q: Is vaccine linked to autism?
A: There’s no scientific evidence of that. Some people have been concerned about primerisol — a mercury-based preservative — and we’ve asked manufacturers to make some that is primerisol free.
Q: Is H1N1 associated with more gastrointestinal symptoms than season flu?
A: We’re seeing that.
Q: Are school nurses part of the priority group?