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H1N1 vaccine arrives in Marion County

But will anybody want it?

Managing editor

There are some residents who are more afraid of the H1N1 vaccine than the virus itself.

Kansans are willing to risk their health — and possibly their lives — by refusing to take the vaccine.

According to Kansas State Health Officer and Director of Kansas Department of Health and Environment Dr. Jason Eberhart-Phillips, the vaccine is safe.

“The H1N1 vaccine really isn’t a ‘new’ vaccine at all,” Eberhart-Phillips said. “It has been manufactured using the same processes used in making seasonal flu vaccines for years.”

He continued, saying that hundreds of millions of people have received these vaccines with few serious adverse effects.

“We expect the H1N1 vaccine to have a similar safety profile, with only mild, localized reactions such as soreness or swelling at the injection site, as was seen in the clinical trials,” he said.

There are two types of vaccines — a nasal spray and a hypodermic shot.

“We hope that people who can take it will take it,” Marion County Public Health Department Director Diedre Serene said.

Marion County recently received 100 doses of the live, attenuated nasal spray vaccine. Hospital, clinic, and emergency medical services personnel within the county are first in line.

Serene said her department will receive additional doses every week but won’t know the type of doses until she receives them.

She explained there are four dosage formulas being used in dispensing the vaccine. Serene said the number of vaccines are based on total county population, so Marion County probably will receive 2,000 to 6,000 doses — a large discrepancy from 13,000 residents.

Who will get them? Will any county resident who wants the vaccine have a chance to receive it?

Eventually there should be sufficient supplies to go around.

Next on the list for Serene’s department will be getting school children vaccinated.

“There’s no sense of going into schools until we have enough,” Serene said. “If we get enough vaccines one week to go into a school, we’ll do that.”

Other people high on the list are those with medical conditions, including pregnant women. Local physicians will be asked to assist.

“But it all depends on the formulas we receive,” she said.

Doses are sent in groups of 100. If 20 pregnant women need a specific formula, for example, the county still has wait until 100 doses are produced and sent. When possible, Serene said the county health department may share with other county health departments.

At some point, when sufficient supplies are received by the county health department, local hospitals and clinics will receive doses for their patients, giving county residents another opportunity to receive the vaccine.

Without the vaccine

How important is it for people to be vaccinated?

While the H1N1 virus has not been as lethal as the 1918 pandemic, as of last week, Eberhart-Phillips reported at least 146 Kansas residents hospitalized with H1N1 flu-related symptoms.

“We believe the actual number is really much higher,” he said. “We also know of six H1N1-related deaths in Kansas.”

It is unusual for health care professionals to see this much influenza as early as mid-October. The impact of this flu virus on children and young adults is unprecedented in modern times, Eberhart-Phillips said.

“Without the protection of the vaccine, the potential for significant absenteeism in coming weeks is high, causing disruption to schools, businesses, and normal community activities,” he said.

Health care professionals also are predicting the H1N1 virus will not “go away” when spring weather arrives. There’s a possibility the flu will continue throughout 2010 and maybe into 2011.

About the vaccine

There are two types of vaccines — a live, attenuated nasal spray and an inactivated flu shot.

The vaccines are administered according to the patient’s age and health.

Nasal spray

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this vaccine is approved for people ages 2 to 24, and those people ages 25 to 49 who live with or care for infants younger than 6 months or are health care or emergency medical personnel, who are not pregnant and do not have certain health conditions such as heart, lung, kidney, or liver disease, asthma, metabolic disease such as diabetes, anemia, or other blood disorders.

The nasal spray does not contain thimerosal or other preservatives. Some people have suggested that thimerosal might be related to autism.

As more vaccine becomes available, other healthy 25-to49-year-olds should be vaccinated.

The vaccine is sprayed into the nose. It is attenuated or weakened so it will not cause illness.

Children through 9 years old should get two doses about a month apart. Older children and adults need only one dose.

Flu shot

The inactivated vaccine that has a dead virus in it is injected into a muscle, like the annual flu shot.

Groups recommended to receive the 2009 H1N1 shot are pregnant women, people who live with or care for infants younger than 6 months of age, health care and emergency medical personnel, anyone from 6 months to 24 years old and anyone from 25 to 64 years of age with certain chronic medical conditions or a weakened immune system.

As more vaccine becomes available, healthy 25-to-64-year-olds and those 65 and older may be vaccinated.

Those who have a severe, life-threatening allergy to eggs should not receive the vaccine.

Just like the nasal spray, children through age 9 should get two doses about a month apart. Older children and adults need only one dose.

Last modified Oct. 14, 2009

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