H1N1 Vaccine Questions? Ask Dr. Anne

4 09 2009

Chief Science Officer Dr. Anne Schuchat answers parents questions about the 2009 H1N1 flu and the vaccine to protect against it. Children aged six months through 24 years are recommended to receive H1N1 flu vaccine. Learn more about it, and how you can protect your family with this vaccine.

This video can also be viewed at http://www.cdc.gov/cdctv/ or on the CDC podcast page.





Babies, Kids, and H1N1

3 09 2009

Delivery/Post-Partum and H1N1 – what do I do?

Breastfeeding may help protect newborns against influenza, but mom’s good handwashing habits before and after breastfeeding are just as important. If you are on medication for flu, you can still breastfeed. Your provider may suggest that you wear a mask when near your baby. If you have symptoms, you can still breastfeed; the milk is not contagious. But stay away from your baby if you are feverish.

Mothers who are infected with H1N1 when they deliver do not necessarily have to be separated from their newborn. A mother on medication should be able to breastfeed; separating her from her infant would not be advantageous. A mother who is actively sick with symptoms will not be very capable of caring for an infant and will need help, which will also help minimize contact and transmission. All caregivers should be vaccinated, and should also get a Tdap vaccination (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis).

Do I need to worry about outbreaks in schools?

Because of the H1N1 outbreaks in community settings (camps, e.g.) this summer, experts do expect schools to be breeding grounds for H1N1.

School closure is an option, but is not expected to be necessary. Students (or anyone) with flu symptoms should stay home.

Other Concerns

Getting the pneumococcal vaccine can help reduce your risk of developing pneumonia as a complication of influenza infection.

For mothers infected with H1N1, masks are recommended in certain circumstances. Talk with your provider if you’re concerned. You should not need to wear a mask or gloves at home.

Do NOT attend a “flu party.” You should NOT purposefully infect yourself, or your children, with H1N1.

Recommendations

  • Fever and respiratory symptoms need to be taken seriously. Call your provider if you have any symptoms or concerns. Ask them for specific instructions; for example, they may want you to put on a mask before entering their office to help prevent infecting pregnant women.
  • Get vaccinated for both seasonal and H1N1 flu viruses. The seasonal vaccine will not protect you against H1N1.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Maintaining good nutrition and getting plenty of rest will also help prevent illness.
  • Continue to receive prenatal care from your provider.
  • Everyone who is sick should stay home.

To get vaccinated, talk with your provider. OB/GYNs are supposed to receive vaccine to have on hand, in addition to clinics, pharmacies, and other typical venues for flu vaccine administration. If you have any concerns, about anything, at any time, talk with your provider – that’s what they’re there for!

To explore this issue further, visit:

Check with your provider to see if immunization is right for you and your family.

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Pregnancy and H1N1 Vaccine

2 09 2009

So you’re pregnant, and you don’t want to get flu, but you also want to know that whatever goes into your body isn’t going to hurt your baby. Here’s info on H1N1 and the vaccine to help you make the best decision for you and your baby.

Is vaccination safe for pregnant women and their unborn babies?

Killed virus vaccines, such as the flu vaccines in shot form, are so safe that any risk to the unborn baby is nearly unmeasurable. FluMist, however, is live and cannot be given to pregnant women. (It can be given to other members of the family who are eligible to receive it.)

What about thimerosol?

As a pregnant woman, you can ask for a thimerosol-free vaccine, because providers are being directed to reserve thimerosol-free doses for pregnant women (and younger children) who are concerned about thimerosol. It should be noted that many studies conducted by independent bodies have shown that thimerosol does not pose any danger.

Should I get both the H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines?

Pregnant women can get both vaccines. It’s recommended that you get each vaccine when it becomes available. The seasonal flu vaccine will be available sooner than the H1N1 vaccine, which should come out mid-October.

Should I wait until later my pregnancy to get vaccinated?

Pregnant women can receive the flu vaccines at any time during pregnancy, including the first trimester. In fact, it’s recommended that pregnant women receive the vaccine early on, since respiratory issues later in pregnancy can be more serious.

You can start the 2-dose H1N1 vaccination series during pregnancy and finish it after your baby is born. Babies ages 0-6 months cannot get the flu vaccine, so if the mother gets the vaccine during pregnancy, it can help protect her baby.

Other concerns…

The vaccine is safe for women planning on natural childbirth. Disease is a natural process, but so is building immunity.
Alternative/online education could be an option for pregnant teens enrolled in schools experiencing outbreaks (because teens are generally considered higher risk for H1N1 as it is). If you are a pregnant young adult attending college, you can continue attending even if cases of H1N1 are reported. You should definitely get vaccinated and wash your hands – a lot.

Patients receiving treatment for infertility can get the flu vaccines. There is zero evidence that flu vaccine harms development of the unborn baby’s brain.

Pregnant healthcare workers need the H1N1 vaccine. If the flu is very active around them, their job description may need to be adjusted.

What should I do if I’m pregnant and get exposed to H1N1?

If you are exposed to a KNOWN case of H1N1, tell your provider; you may need medication. If 5 kids in your child’s school have it, this is not the same as being directly exposed.

Check with your provider to see if immunization is right for you and your family.

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H1N1 – early September

1 09 2009

Flus Gonna Lose logo

What’s H1N1 doing right now?

The flu virus has been circulating in the southern hemisphere, which is winding down its winter flu season. The good news is that it hasn’t mutated. In the U.S., we can expect to see H1N1 cases along with the regular seasonal flu.

Is there a vaccine?

This year, people ages 6 months or older will be able to get an H1N1 vaccine in addition to the regular seasonal flu vaccine. The H1N1 vaccine has gone through trials to determine safety and appropriate dosage. The testing process involves administering the vaccine, waiting 3 weeks, then taking a blood sample to measure antibodies to see if the dosage of vaccine was adequate.

You will probably need 2 doses of H1N1 vaccine for it to be effective. The H1N1 vaccine will have multiple formulations, as does the seasonal flu vaccine:
•    10-dose vial (which contains thimerosol)
•    Single-dose vials (thimerosol-free)
•    Preloaded syringes (thimerosol-free)

Some people are saying the H1N1 vaccine was developed too quickly. Is that true?

People who are concerned that the H1N1 vaccine was developed too quickly can take comfort in knowing the H1N1 vaccine preparation process is the same as it is for the seasonal flu vaccine and it is made by the same manufacturers. So far, any reactions in the trials for H1N1 vaccine have been the same as for the regular seasonal flu vaccine (soreness, redness). Any serious events that might occur may not appear during the vaccine trial time period because they are so rare.

Who should get the H1N1 vaccine?

People who should get the H1N1 vaccine are:
•    Pregnant women
•    Household contacts and caregivers for babies 0-6 months
•    Healthcare and emergency medical services personnel
•    People ages 6 months through 24 years
•    People ages 25-64 years of age who have health conditions putting them at higher risk of complications from influenza

As with the seasonal flu vaccine, people with egg allergies cannot get the H1N1 vaccine.  Check with your provider to see if immunization is right for you and your family.

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H1N1: More Questions Than Answers

24 07 2009

Is it wrong to say I’m sick of pandemic (H1N1) 2009, influenza A (H1N1), novel influenza A H1N1, swine flu virus 2009, etc?  Not sick with, just sick of.

Yet, drop a hint of H1N1 into the conversation and I’m all ears (I know, it’s sick).

So many questions, so few answers at this time…

We’re hearing a lot about antigens and adjuvants in relation to the vaccines that are being developed by various manufacturers.

An antigen is the active ingredient in a vaccine that causes our bodies to produce the immune response, or development of antibodies, that helps us fight the virus, should we become infected.

An adjuvant is an additive that might be added to a vaccine to boost the immune system’s response and, we hope, reduce the amount of antigen necessary for the body to recognize and fight a virus.

If we can reduce the amount of antigen necessary for each dose, then we can further stretch our available vaccine supply.

Are vaccine manufacturers going to use an adjuvant, the additive that boosts our immune response to the vaccine (although scientists are saying we’ll still need two doses)?

There’s no definitive answer as of this date, 24 July 2009.

If an adjuvant will be used, is it one that’s been used before and if so, has it been used with a swine flu virus?

Adjuvants have been used before, but not against a swine flu virus.  No one knows at this time if this will make a difference.

For each potential vaccine, how many subjects will be tested in clinical trials before the vaccine is made available to the general public?

We probably won’t know until it’s done.

How much adjuvant should be used?  Will studies be done to determine age-specific responses to an antigen/adjuvant mix?  Will each manufacturer be using a different antigen and adjuvant combination and what pre-licensure studies will be done for each?  Will studies be done on at-risk populations like those who are immune-compromised or obese?

Don’t know.

Since one of the groups most affected by this virus is kids, and therefore the youth in the U.S. will surely be encouraged to get vaccinated, how many kids will be in the pre-licensure trials?

Don’t know.

We sincerely hope someone has the answers to these questions and shares those answers with all of us, although it’s encouraging to realize that vaccine development is not a new science and the world’s governments have plans for dealing with the many issues that arise in a pandemic situation.

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H1N1 Moves to Phase 6

11 06 2009

After weeks of saying it without saying it, today WHO is moving the pandemic scale from phase 5 to phase 6.

WHO

In the U.S. and many other countries, this is simply a formality, as the actions being taken by the various governments (local, state, provincial, federal) will stay on course, unaffected by the WHO declaration.

CDC believes that novel H1N1 (swine flu) is at a category 2 out of 5 on the pandemic severity index.

Brushing away all the extra words and getting to the core, nothing new has happened with the virus.

Everyone is waiting to see what happens in the Southern Hemisphere this summer.  It’s their flu season and the virus may mutate, get more severe, die down, or remain at its current level of severity.

There will be another holding of the collective breath this fall as we see what happens when flu season gets going in the North.

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H1N1 – It’s Like Gum On Your Shoe

22 05 2009

H1N1 has been around for a few weeks and we’ve whipped through “how worried should we be” straight into “swine flu? thought that was done.”

CDC says that flu activity is decreasing in the U.S., but that levels are still higher than normal for this time of year.  Note that not all diagnosed cases of flu are H1N1.

East Coast folks are still a bit above normal in number for late spring influenza infections.

The H1N1 strain is mild at this time, although there have been some deaths and hospitalizations.  The constant worry continues to be next fall – what will the virus do?

Younger people are getting the worst of it right now.  More than 60 percent of cases are in people between the ages of five and 24.  Fifty-eight percent of hospitalizations have occurred in people between the ages of 10 and 49.

The pre-existing medical conditions (asthma, pregnancy and others) that put people at risk of complications from seasonal flu also are risk factors with H1N1.

Money has been put toward the development of a vaccine for H1N1 but it’s yet to be decided if and how much vaccine would be produced.

As we go into the Memorial Day weekend, the word is:

  • Stay home if you’re sick
  • Wash hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with your sleeve or a Kleenex, then wash your hands – again!