Flu Watch: Don’t forget your seasonal flu shotSMDC Health System has received one H1N1 shipment. With each shipment, the federal government gives specific instructions about who can receive the vaccine. The first shipment went to health-care workers who are at high risk for contracting the virus or who work with patients who are at high risk of complications from the virus.
SMDC Health System has received one H1N1 shipment. With each shipment, the federal government gives specific instructions about who can receive the vaccine. The first shipment went to health-care workers who are at high risk for contracting the virus or who work with patients who are at high risk of complications from the virus.
Vaccine distribution remains a fluid situation. We at SMDC aren’t sure when we will receive our next shipment, how many doses it will be and whether it will be flu shots or nasal spray. How we distribute H1N1 vaccine is set by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has identified priority groups. Those groups, such as pregnant women, are at high risk of medical complications from the virus.
Contrary to what the federal government had hoped for, it doesn’t appear that we will have vaccine in time to counter the current wave of H1N1. Some experts believe that this wave will peak within the next few weeks and, based on the behavior of past pandemics, additional waves are likely.
Eventually, manufacturers will be able to produce enough H1N1 vaccine for everyone who wants it. I recommend you get the H1N1 vaccine when it is made available so you will be protected from future waves of this strain.
In the meantime, the best advice I can give is to practice prevention by washing your hands, coughing or sneezing into your elbow, and staying away from others who are sick with flu-like symptoms.
Another step you can take to protect yourself is to get the vaccine for seasonal flu.
This week, SMDC will hold two walk-in clinics offering the nasal spray vaccine for seasonal flu. FluMist is for anyone who is healthy and between the ages of 2 and 49. It is not for anyone who is pregnant or has a medical condition such as diabetes or heart disease. Hours for the FluMist clinic are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday in the lobby of SMDC Medical Center’s Duluth Clinic First Street Building, 420 E. First St.
While early shipments of seasonal flu vaccine were delayed because of production and distribution of H1N1 vaccine, SMDC expects to have seasonal FluMist and flu shots at walk-in clinics in Duluth and Superior beginning Nov. 16.
It’s important to remember that seasonal flu shots traditionally begin in November.
Because it only takes 10 to 14 days for you to build immunity, you’ll be protected from those virus strains long before our regular flu season, which usually peaks in January.
After availability, the next question I usually get about vaccines is safety. The H1N1 vaccine and the seasonal flu vaccine were developed using standards that have been employed for more than 30 years. I think concerns about thimerosal, a preservative used in some vaccines, are unfounded.
Here’s what I tell people: The risk from the flu is far greater than the risk from either vaccine.
Dr. Timothy Burke is the epidemiologist for SMDC Health System and an infectious disease specialist.