The H1N1 virus has infected well over one million people in the United States and has become the CDC’s No. 1 priority. As a health care provider, I have an obvious interest in seeing the least suffering from illness. This is why I want people to get vaccinated as expeditiously as possible.
Are the vaccines safe?
The nasal spray vaccine is a Live-Attenuated Influenza Vaccine (LAIV). The virus has been “cold-adapted,” which means that it has been genetically modified to only replicate at 77 degrees Fahrenheit, but not at human core body temperatures. This is why the LAIV can cause nasal congestion because it can replicate in the nose but can’t replicate anywhere lower in the respiratory tract. The injectable vaccine contains an inactivated virus. The H1N1 and seasonal influenza vaccines are manufactured in exactly the same way. The bottom line is they are safe. You absolutely CANNOT get the flu from the vaccine.
When and where can you get the H1N1 vaccine?
H1N1 vaccine availability will be changing from week to week. Unfortunately, the CDC projected that much more vaccine would be available then the manufacturers have been able to provide. This comes at a time when the second wave of this pandemic has clearly arrived. Twenty-seven percent more flu cases were reported to the Arizona State Lab the first week of October in comparison to the previous week.
An initial 39,000 doses of LAIV were released Oct. 6 and went to hospital-based health care workers and emergency medical workers. Since then vaccine in the LAIV form and injectable form has become available but in quantities less than anticipated. Given this limited supply, the Maricopa County Health Department will be directing the majority of those vaccines to large pediatric practices, large OB/GYN practices and the two largest community health centers.
Eventually the Health Department hopes to stock private practices, pharmacies, vaccination clinics, school-based vaccine events and WIC (Women Infants and Children) sites. The public will have to be patient for an adequate supply of vaccine to get to their provider’s office or a vaccination clinic near them. Check the Web site www.fluaz.org periodically to find out when and where the vaccine will be available to you.
Dr. Mark Tosca is a family practice physician at Kachina Family Practice (www. Kachinafamilypractice.com) and will be writing about the flu monthly. For more information on the H1N1 virus, go to www.cdc.gov or contact Tosca at firstname.lastname@example.org.