Pleasanton Weekly

- January 29, 2010

Frequently asked questions about H1N1

Q: Will the vaccine against 2009 H1N1 influenza virus (also called "swine flu") be the same vaccine in 2010?

A: Yes, the vaccine to protect against the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus will be the same for the entire 2009-2010 influenza season, which extends into the spring of 2010. The "2009" in the name only relates to the year the virus was first identified; it does not have to do with how long the vaccine will work or the year in which it should be administered.

Q: Who should get the 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccine?

A: When the vaccine to protect against 2009 H1N1 first became available, supplies were limited. For this reason, CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended that people at highest risk for complications from this virus, or those caring for high risk individuals who cannot receive vaccination, receive the vaccine first. These target groups included pregnant women, people who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age, health care and emergency medical services personnel, anyone 6 months through 24 years of age, and people ages of 25 through 64 years of age at higher risk for 2009 H1N1 influenza because of certain chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems.

ACIP recognized the need to assess supply and demand issues at the local level. The committee further recommended that once the demand for vaccine for these target groups had been met at the local level, programs and providers should begin vaccinating everyone from ages 25 through 64 years. Studies at that time indicated that the risk for infection among people 65 and older was less than the risk for younger age groups so people 65 and older were not initially targeted to receive early doses of vaccine. However, ACIP noted that as vaccine supply increased and demand for vaccine among younger age groups is being met, programs and providers should also offer vaccination to people over the age of 65. At this time, many states have already opened up vaccination to anyone who wants it and while people 65 and older are still less likely to get sick with 2009 H1N1, severe infections and deaths have occurred in every age group, including older people. CDC is now encouraging those who have been patiently waiting to receive the 2009 H1N1 vaccine, including people 65 and older, to get vaccinated depending on local supply.

Q: How many doses of vaccine are required?

A: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of one dose of vaccine against 2009 H1N1 influenza virus for persons 10 years of age and older. For children who are 6 months through 9 years of age, two doses of the vaccine are recommended. These two doses should be separated by 4 weeks. Infants younger than 6 months of age are too young to get any influenza vaccine.

Q: Can people who are allergic to eggs receive the vaccine against 2009 H1N1 influenza virus?

A: People who are allergic to eggs might be at risk for allergic reactions from receiving any influenza vaccine. People who have had any of the following symptoms or experiences should consult with a doctor or other medical professional before considering any influenza vaccination:

* hives or swelling of the lips or tongue after eating eggs

* acute respiratory distress (trouble breathing) after eating eggs

* documented hypersensitivity to eggs, including those who have had asthma related to egg exposure at their workplace or other allergic responses to egg protein

Because children with severe asthma are at high risk of serious complications from influenza, a regimen has been developed for giving influenza vaccine to children with severe asthma and egg hypersensitivity.

Source: Centers for Disease Control

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