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H1N1(Swine Flu): So who is supposed to get the H1N1 vaccine?? Confused? Let me explain

The whole vaccine issue is confusing to many people.  Who should get the H1N1 vaccine now?  Who should wait?  Who should get seasonal vaccine?  Health care professionals are trying not to confuse people but the public appears bewildered anyway.

I was reading a blog this morning that proclaimed that the Obama girls are not getting the vaccine because they are not on the priority list and the blogger was making a big deal out of it…after all they are children and that is a high risk group! And if the Presidents kids aren’t getting vaccinated what does that mean?!?!?! Blah, blah, blah…

Yes, that is true (they are children) but they are not in the restricted priority list issued by CDC on July 29, 2009. OK, let me explain.  There is a group at the CDC called the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), and they make recommendations for vaccine use. ACIP developed two lists:

  • Who should receive vaccine against novel influenza A (H1N1) when it becomes available
  • Determine which groups of the population should be prioritized if the vaccine is initially available in extremely limited quantities.

ACIP recommended the vaccination efforts focus on five key populations.  Vaccination efforts are designed to help reduce the impact and spread of novel H1N1. The key populations include those who are at higher risk of disease or complications, those who are likely to come in contact with novel H1N1, and those who could infect young infants. When vaccine is first available, the committee recommended that programs and providers try to vaccinate:

  • Pregnant women,
  • People who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age,
  • Health care and emergency medical services personnel,
  • Persons between the ages of 6 months through 24 years of age, and
  • People from ages 25 through 64 years who are at higher risk for novel H1N1 because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems.

The groups listed above total approximately 159 million people in the United States.  BTW- there is only 13 million doses RIGHT NOW (October 26, 2009) in the U.S.

Child with O2Mask
ACIP noted because availability and demand can be unpredictable there is some possibility that initially the vaccine will be available in limited quantities – like our current situation - there needed to be a more severe list.

With widespread disease and limited vaccine, the committee recommended that the following groups receive the vaccine before others:

  • Pregnant women,
  • People who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age,
  • Health care and emergency medical services personnel with direct patient contact,
  • Children 6 months through 4 years of age, and
  • Children 5 through 18 years of age who have chronic medical conditions.

Now I have talked to many providers who say that the public is already confused and anxious and they will continue to likely give vaccines to those in the original 159 million list to not confuse them anymore than they are AND hope that supply increases rapidly. And BTW the Obama girls are not in this more restricted list.

Lastly the committee further recommended that once the demand for vaccine for these prioritized groups (the first group of 159 million) has been met at the local level, programs and providers should begin vaccinating everyone from ages 25 through 64 years. Current studies indicate the risk for infection among persons age 65 or older is less than the risk for younger age groups. Therefore, as vaccine supply and demand for vaccine among younger age groups is being met, programs and providers should offer vaccination to people over the age of 65.

Now seasonal flu is another matter.   Seasonal flu is particularly severe in older people and CDC has stressed that people over the age of 65 receive the seasonal vaccine as soon as it is available (now would be good).

And lastly seasonal flu and novel H1N1 vaccines may be administered on the same day. Hope this helps clear up the confusion.

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