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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Swine Flu Vaccine Swine Flu Basics

As the swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is a new virus, no swine flu vaccine is available to prevent infections.

And unfortunately, the seasonal flu vaccine that many of us received will not provide any protection against the swine flu virus.

Experts are already working on a swine flu vaccine though.

Swine Flu Vaccine

It is estimated that the swine flu vaccine won't be ready until sometime around September to November 2009. In addition to the time required to actually make a new vaccine, the likely need to make seasonal flu vaccine for next year may delay things a little.

Can the swine flu vaccine be combined with the seasonal flu vaccine? Probably not, as vaccine companies will be done making seasonal flu vaccine by early summer 2009, well before they can likely even get started on the swine flu vaccine.

Once the swine flu is ready, who will get it?

As was planned for other pandemics, swine flu vaccine will likely be given out based on specific categories and priority levels and the severity of the pandemic.

At first, swine flu vaccination would be 'targeted to protect workers with critical skills, experience, or licensure status whose absence would create bottlenecks or collapse of critical functions, and to protect workers who are at especially high occupational risk,' according to the CDC. People with critical functions would be prioritized in the top tiers of vaccinations priority.

What about children?

In general, children are also considered to be in a priority group for getting swine flu vaccine and are also considered to be in the first tiers of vaccination depending on their risk for complications:

  • Infants & toddlers 6 to 35 mo old, pregnant women - Tier 1
  • Household contacts of infants less than 6 mo - Tier 2
  • Children 3 to 18 yrs with high risk conditions - Tier 2
  • Children 3 to 18 yrs without high risk conditions - Tier 2 (Moderate Pandemic)
  • Children 3 to 18 yrs without high risk conditions - Tier 3 (Severe and Less Severe Pandemic)

To get the first three tiers of people vaccinated is estimated to require about 104 million doses of swine flu vaccine.

1976 Swine Flu Vaccine

Although it is true that we don't currently have a swine flu vaccine, there once was a swine flu vaccine that was made to target the swine flu H1N1 strain that was found at Fort Dix, New Jersey. Because of fears that this swine flu strain was similar to the flu strain that caused the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, a vaccination program immunized more than 40 million people in the United States between October 1976 to December 1976.

The immunization program was stopped early because the swine flu pandemic didn't occur, and the swine flu vaccine was thought to cause many side effects, including Guillain-Barre syndrome.

How many cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome were there? About 40, or 1 per million people vaccinated. Even that was considered too high though in light of the fact that there didn't seem to be any cases of swine flu that season.

Source: Draft Guidance on Allocating and Targeting Pandemic Influenza Vaccine. Accessed April 2009.

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