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What Do We Know About the H1N1 Flu Vaccine?

An H1N1 Flu Vaccine is on the Way - What Do We Know About the Injection?

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Updated September 07, 2009

By now, we have all heard of the H1N1 flu, commonly known as the "swine flu." In April and May of 2009, thanks to the uncertainty of the H1N1 flu and the near hysteria fueled by the media, we were all ready for a pandemic of historic proportion. But in the time since then, things have calmed a bit. The H1N1 flu has been found to be less severe than initially predicted, so many other big news stories took the spotlight off H1N1 during the summer of 2009.

What's On the Horizon for Fall and Winter 2009?

H1N1 flu has not disappeared however, and experts and medical professionals continue to monitor new cases of H1N1 flu. Unfortunately, there have been more deaths reminding us of the serious nature of H1N1 flu. Public health professionals, epidemiologists, and infectious disease specialists are gearing up for what they fear may be a very bad flu season. The combination of H1N1 flu and the seasonal flu could spell a lot of problems for public health. Like every year, there will be a seasonal flu vaccine; the only difference this season is that experts recommended beginning the vaccination process in Sept. 2009. As of this writing, a new H1N1 flu vaccine is on the horizon, though not yet available. What do we know about the vaccine and when should we get in line for our injection?

H1N1 Flu Vaccine Facts

While experts agree that the H1N1 flu thus far has been less severe than first predicted, they remind us that people have died from this virus. They also remind us that we are not out of the woods by a long shot. Experts expect the number of new cases to rise as we progress through the fall and winter months. And experts agree that if no preventative measures are taken, the virus could spread all over the world very quickly and a lot more people will die. With that in mind, an H1N1 flu vaccine is on the way, with a tentative release date sometime in October '09. While many of the vaccine's specifics have not been released here is some of what we know now:
  • The H1N1 flu vaccine is not a replacement for the seasonal flu vaccine which is now available. The reverse is true as well; the seasonal flu vaccine is unlikely to have any significant effect on on H1N1 flu and does not replace the H1N1 flu vaccine.
  • While the goal of the CDC is to get as many people vaccinated as possible as quickly as possible, they have identified five at-risk groups for whom the new vaccine is highly recommended and who are the highest priority for vaccination.
    • pregnant women
    • household members and caregivers of children younger than 6 months old
    • healthcare and emergency medical professionals
    • people from 6 months to 24 years of age
    • persons 25 through 64 years of age who have medical conditions that increase their risk of flu complications, such as pneumonia

  • While an exact date is not known, the vaccine looks like it will be available sometime in late October 2009. The reason for the uncertainty is because availability dates depend on the timing of clinical trials, manufacturing steps and other production and delivery factors.

  • It is expected that the H1N1 flu vaccine and the seasonal flu vaccine could be given on the same day. However, because the seasonal flu vaccine is now available, many people will have already been vaccinated against seasonal flu when the H1N1 vaccine is available.

  • Expanding the vaccination process to people not included in the at- risk and highest priority groups will be decided at the local level because vaccine availability and need will vary greatly from place to place.

  • It is possible that the H1N1 vaccine may be a multiple-dose vaccine, meaning you may need more than one dose to be fully immunized. However, vaccine doses will not be held in reserve for second doses in lieu of vaccinating people for the first time.

  • Information on cost and insurance coverage has not been released. The seasonal flu vaccine is covered by most insurance companies so one would speculate that the H1N1 vaccine would be no different.

  • Like all vaccines, the H1N1 vaccine will have potential side effects, from very mild to severe. Those side effects will become more clear as clinical trials progress. A means to report side effects and complications is being put into place so safety information will be available to providers around the world.

Until the H1N1 vaccine becomes available, speak to your doctor about getting your seasonal flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available. When the H1N1 flu vaccine becomes available, speak with your doctor to find out if you should get the vaccine. If you have concerns about side effects and potential complications, speak with your doctor before agreeing to receive the vaccine.

More H1N1 Flu information

Sources

  • Centers for Disease Control; "Novel H1N1 Vaccination Recommendations"; 30 July 2009.
  • National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, CDC; "Use of Influenza A (H1N1) 2009 Monovalent Vaccine"; 21 Aug 2009.
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