H1N1 (Swine flu) Vaccinations
Mandeep Rai, MD, is the medical director of Infection Control at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center. She can be reached at (602) 865-5687.
Question: Is there a vaccine available for H1N1 (swine flu) and why is it important to get vaccinated?
Answer: There are currently two vaccines available to fight H1N1 influenza, commonly referred to as swine flu. The first is an inactive strain delivered through an injection. Because the flu virus in this vaccine has been killed, you cannot get the flu from the shot. Some minor side effects that could occur are:
- redness or swelling at the injection site
- low-grade fever, aches
The second vaccine, called LAIV, is a nasal spray containing a weakened form of the live virus that will not cause illness – though this vaccine is still not recommended for patients with chronic illnesses or weakened or suppressed immune systems. Health care workers who treat patients with severely suppressed immune systems (e.g., bone marrow transplant patients) should also avoid the LAIV vaccine. The LAIV nasal spray is a good option for healthy people ages 2 to 49 years old.
Getting vaccinated not only helps avoid contracting the H1N1 virus, it also helps to prevent you from spreading the disease. Even if you do not experience symptoms, you could still carry the virus and possibly spread it to those more vulnerable.
H1N1 is a serious virus. As of Oct. 7 2009, year-to-date, there have been 2,263 confirmed cases of swine flu in Arizona; 1,448 in Maricopa County. So far in 2009, 30 deaths have been associated with H1N1 according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Arizona’s regular annual flu season typical hits around Christmas time and health experts expect to have plenty of vaccine available by then.
The recent publicity over swine flu has been a double-edged sword for hospitals and clinics, however. While most years we have to coax people to get vaccinated for the regular seasonal flu this year many patients have taken the initiative and have been vaccinated for regular flu, using the available supply of vaccine faster than normal. But not to worry, more is being made and will be readily available later this month – still in plenty of time for flu season.