Lifewatch: H1N1 vaccination

Reported by Claire Hosmann - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

(WECT) - The FDA has approved the first vaccines to ward off H1N1, and the doses are being distributed across the country.

Health experts say one shot could be enough to protect yourself, and if 70 percent of the population gets vaccinated, we could control the outbreak.

Matt McIntosh loved playing drums in his band.  His older sister, Mindy, was his biggest fan.

"They were just very close," said their mother Katrina McIntosh.  "One was always with the other one."

This summer, both Matt and Mindy came down with flu-like symptoms.  In 10 days Matt was dead, and Mindy died three weeks later.  They both had H1N1.

"My kids were perfectly healthy," said Katrina.  "They had no underlying health problems whatsoever."

Cases like this have health officials racing against the clock to protect the public.  The government has ordered 195 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine.

Trials in adult went well, and now doctors are testing safety and dosage guidelines in kids.

The vaccine is made by scientists injecting a version of the H1N1 virus into millions of eggs.  There the virus multiplies.  Researchers inactivate the virus and pull out individual proteins.  Those proteins, along with other ingredients, make up the vaccine.

The CDC recommends pregnant women, kids from 6 months to 24 years old, and adults who have diabetes, asthma, chronic lung or heart disease get the shot.

Experts say to avoid the H1N1 vaccine if you are allergic to eggs.  So far the shot has been safely tested on 3,100 healthy adults, 240 pregnant women, and 1,200 kids.

Health officials still recommend getting seasonal flu shots because the H1N1 vaccine won't protect against both strains.

For more information, please contact:

Centers for Disease Control

BACKGROUND: As of late August, 556 Americans had died from the H1N1, or swine flu, virus, with the first U.S. death reported at the end of April (Source: Newsweek). By mid July of this year, 99 percent of all people tested for flu in the United States tested positive for H1N1, according to ScienceNews. The infection started as a respiratory disease in pigs caused by the type A influenza virus. The first H1N1 virus was isolated from a pig in 1930. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in humans, the virus causes the same symptoms as regular, season flu, including fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. It also sometimes causes runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Infection with H1N1 only becomes dangerous when it leads to complications like pneumonia and respiratory failure, which most often occur in patients with underlying conditions and risk factors like pregnancy, asthma, diabetes, a suppressed immune system, heart disease, kidney disease and neurocognitive and neuromuscular disorders.

THE VACCINE: Although initially researchers thought the swine flu vaccine would need to be given in two doses, research in the U.S., China and Australia suggests one dose is strong enough to protect adults against the virus. In one Australian study on 240 adults, one standard 15-microgram dose of the H1N1 vaccine protected 75 to 96 percent of people, which is the same degree of effectiveness offered by the seasonal flu shot. In the same study, 45 percent of participants who received the new vaccine experienced mild reactions like headache, sore arm or redness at the injection site. Another separate study in the U.S. suggests the H1N1 vaccine provides protection within eight to 10 days.

Since the H1N1 vaccine doesn't protect against the season flu, experts still urge those at risk for complications from either virus to get both vaccines. Researchers are still trying to determine whether the H1N1 vaccine can be administered in combination with or shortly after the seasonal flu vaccine.

H1N1 AND KIDS: In one study published in the journal Science, researchers estimate that 30 to 40 percent of swine flu transmission will occur in households and about 20 percent in schools. A model used in the study suggests that a typical school-age child will infect an average of 2.4 other kids at his or her school. The research also suggests the swine flu outbreak will most likely peak in mid to late October.

Study authors urge that because children will experience the highest infection rates, they should be first in line to receive the H1N1 vaccine.