You may have heard that H1N1 influenza is primarily a disease of children. This is because H1N1 disproportionately infects infants, children and young adults. There were only two laboratory confirmed pediatric deaths from influenza through the 2006 to 2007 and 2007 to 2008 influenza seasons. In contrast, there were 12 pediatric deaths during the 2008-2009 season. Seven of those deaths were confirmed to be from H1N1.
The new influenza season officially began Oct. 4. The only virus that is causing influenza-like illness recently is H1N1. The tragic consequence is there will be many more pediatric deaths this season than in several of the preceding influenza seasons combined. For this reason, I can’t stress enough how important it is to have your child vaccinated when the vaccine is available to you (see http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/vaccination/acip.htm for target vaccination groups).
Most people know better than to take advice about vaccination from fringe practitioners and celebrities like Bill Maher or Jenny McCarthy. That said, the sad truth, given how H1N1 disproportionately affects the young, is that only 51 percent of adults in a recent Harvard School of Public Health survey say they are absolutely certain they will have their children vaccinated.
Mainstream practitioners recognize that vaccines are a victim of their own success. Dr. David Oshinsky, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, believes increased resistance to vaccination over the last several decades comes from the public’s lack of experience with epidemics. He uses the example of the polio vaccine trials in 1954, in which “parents volunteered more than a million children to receive either an experimental vaccine or placebo.” He emphasizes that recent generations have “never seen a small pox epidemic, or a polio epidemic.”
Where to get the vaccine
The Maricopa County Health Department and the Mollen’s Immunization Clinic staff are beginning to coordinate immunization for H1N1 through schools. You can register your child at www.flushotsusa.com, and keep checking www.fluaz.org to find out when and where other locations are available.
Dr. Mark Tosca is a family practice physician at Kachina Family Practice (www. Kachinafamilypractice.com) and is writing about the flu monthly. For more information on the swine flu, visit www.cdc.gov or contact Tosca at firstname.lastname@example.org.