4 Flu Vaccine Doses for Kids This Fall -- but Where and When
This may go down in history as the most confusing flu season ever, given that a vaccine for the new H1N1 swine flu isn't yet available, but the plain old seasonal flu vaccine is. Parents are being told that almost all children, from 6-month-old babies up to 18-year-olds, should be vaccinated against both viruses. Since a child who has never had a flu shot should have two doses, that means four doses of vaccine for some kids, should the protection against H1N1 become available.
Talk about a recipe for pandemonium at the pediatrician's office! "It's not going to be pretty,"
The "where and how to vaccinate" question is even more confusing because the two vaccines will be delivered in different tracks. Seasonal flu vaccine is being offered through doctors' offices, hospitals, and retail clinics, as usual. But the H1N1 vaccine, if it passes clinical safety trials now underway and is offered later this fall, will be distributed by state health departments. Each state has its own plan. Some states will offer both seasonal and H1N1 vaccines in schools. Some will provide only seasonal flu doses, some only H1N1. Some states will not have in-school vaccinations at all. The usual rules apply in paying for seasonal flu vaccine; some insurance covers it, some doesn't. But the H1N1 flu vaccine, if it appears, will be free. Confused enough?
So I'm going with the one-step-at-a-time approach. In our school district, seasonal flu vaccine is being offered for the first time at schools. Parents can choose to have children receive FluMist, which is delivered via nose spray. Since my daughter has never had a flu shot, she'll need two doses about a month apart. Then I'll stay tuned for news from the school district and my pediatrician on H1N1 vaccine, but I'll also check the federal government's flu.gov Web site for updates on whether H1N1 vaccine will be available at all. I hope it will. So far, it seems a much safer bet than getting H1N1 flu.
Parents are understandably concerned about vaccine safety, particularly when faced with the idea of four doses of flu vaccine in one season. In 1976, when a novel swine flu shot was administered, some people came down with Guillain-Barr? syndrome, a neurological disorder that can cause muscle weakness and paralysis. There's debate over whether those cases were caused by the vaccine. Since then, the infection rate for Guillain-Barr? after seasonal flu shots has been 1 case per million doses. So far this year, 25 out of every 100,000 children who have come down with H1N1 in
Another long-simmering safety issue: Some flu vaccines also will have trace amounts of thimerosal, a preservative with very small amounts of mercury. Parents concerned that thimerosal may be causing autism and other disorders have lobbied hard against using the preservative in vaccines, but it's still used in multi-dose vials of flu vaccine. Thimerosal-free vaccine is being made for seasonal flu, and it should be made for H1N1, too, so if that's important to you, call your pediatrician pronto and ask to reserve thimerosal-free vaccine.
H1N1 and Its Descendents: Where This Pandemic Flu Came From - and Where it Might Go
Harvard Health Letters
Already, 2009 is not a typical year. We're in the midst of a flu pandemic caused by a virus that first emerged in Mexico in mid-February. Billions are being spent on preparedness plans. And millions of Americans may line up this fall to get two kinds of flu vaccines, one for the regular seasonal flu that comes around every winter and another for the pandemic strain. So far, the 2009 pandemic has been more widespread than lethal.
Vive la Resistance to Flu
Vaccinating people against swine flu may be a lot easier than anyone dared hope, as it turns out that people have an unexpected degree of immunity to the pandemic now sweeping the world.
In an effort to contain swine flu, the French Health Ministry this week called for citizens to avoid "all direct contacts between people and particularly with sick people," which means no kissing or shaking hands.
Seasonal Cold or Swine Flu? Moms Face Tough Calls
I sent my 11-year-old son to school today with a stuffy nose and mild cough, as I've done countless times in the past. Now, though, I'm wondering whether I should have kept him home. How do I know it's really a garden-variety cold and not the swine flu?
The National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases made it easy to think that all children will need just one swine flu immunization, but that's not true. The younger a child is, the less well his or her immune system responded to the swine flu vaccine in clinical trials. So children under age 10 will need two doses of swine flu vaccine, one month apart, according to the NIAID itself.
Better Ways Medicine Can Beat Back Swine Flu
Bernadine Healy M.D.
Yes, today's swine flu outbreak could change quickly. But it's time to give up the ghosts of 1918 that so haunt our medical thinking. Our challenges today are not what they were when we had nothing to offer but are more about knowing just what to offer, when, and to whom. This swine flu pandemic promises to teach numerous lessons that will inform future crises. Some are already evident
(C) 2009 U.S. News & World Report