More H1N1 vaccine becomes available
Around 3,100 more doses of H1N1 nasal spray are available in time for children who need a second dose of vaccine to achieve full immunity, says Southwest Health District Health Director Dr. Jacqueline Grant.
“The approximately 1,730 children aged 2 through 9 in our 14-county Health District who have gotten their first dose of vaccine will need another dose 28 days later to be fully protected against the pandemic H1N1 flu,” Grant said. “Because the vaccine is in short supply, some parents have been anxious. We’re pleased to have acquired more H1N1 nasal spray, which can be used to provide booster doses as well as to continue to vaccinate people who fall into high risk categories.”
The nasal mist, also known as LAIV for ‘live attenuated influenza vaccine,’ is made with live, weakened flu viruses, and is only for healthy people aged 2 to 49 who are not pregnant.
“Children who received their first dose of H1N1 vaccine in the injectable form can get their second dose as a nasal spray as long as they don’t have any of the contra-indications, such as compromised immune systems or conditions like asthma,” Grant said. “Since we don’t know when we will get another shipment of H1N1 flu shots, parents may want to go ahead and get their children fully protected before the holidays.”
Southwest Health District received the new supply of H1N1 nasal spray vaccine late Nov. 19 and began transporting it to county health departments Nov. 20, said Grant. In addition, area childcare providers who had signed up to receive vaccine and met required federal and state guidelines also received an allotment from the new supply.
“About 210 doses were made available to the childcare providers in the District who expressed willingness to accept LAIV,” she said.
Meanwhile, influenza-like illness continues to sicken residents in Southwest Georgia. As of Nov. 18, 13 new hospitalizations were reported, said District Epidemiologist Jacqueline Jenkins.
“The hospitalizations included very young children and older adults,” she said. “We are seeing a lot of these patients with co-infections of pneumonia.”
H1N1’s highest attack rate is in children and young adults, who have no immunity to it, said Grant. The lowest H1N1 infection rates are in adults 65 and older. However, older adults who do catch this virus are at risk of significant illness, she said. Even though they are not among the first designated to receive H1N1 vaccine, people 65 and older can get vaccinated against pneumococcal disease, plus they are prioritized to receive antiviral medication if they develop flu-like symptoms, said Grant.
“Older adults should contact their healthcare providers at the first sign of influenza so they can begin receiving antivirals immediately. These medications are most effective when they are administered within the first 48 hours.”
Eventually, older adults – and others not in priority groups – will be able to get H1N1 vaccine. However, production delays continue to hobble vaccination efforts.
“We don’t know when we will be able to open up the H1N1 vaccine to more of the population,” Grant said.
For now, Public Health continues to recommend prevention measures:
Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
If you are sick with a flu-like illness, stay home until you have been symptom-free for 24 hours.
Keep sick children at home.
Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
Get a seasonal flu vaccination as soon as you can.
Stay informed – the situation may change rapidly, so listen for Public Health alerts and recommendations.
For more information about swine flu (H1N1), go online to www.southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org or www.cdc.gov/swineflu/ or call the District’s toll-free Flu Hotline, 800-829-2255.