Wednesday, October 7, 2009

H1N1 and the regular Influenza virus

I've gotten my flu vaccination, have you?

This year is a little confusing because there are two flu vaccines to get. The first one is the regular influenza vaccine that everyone older than 6 months should get yearly. Kids 6 months to 8 years old who are getting their first vaccine need two. The high risk targeted groups for this vaccine are 1. children 6 months to 4 years old
2. children 4-19 with chronic illness
3. all adults older than 50
4. pregnant women
5. nursing home residents
6. adults with chronic illnesses/compromised immune systems
7. adults who are in close contact with kids listed above
8. Health care workers.

The H1N1 vaccine recommendations are different. The CDC lists it in order of importance.
1. Kids 6 months to 24 months
2. Pregnant women
3. People who care for kids birth to 24 months
4. health care workers and emergency personnel
5. Anyone 6 months to 24 years old
6. Anyone 25-64 who are at increased risk for complications due to chronic illness.

The big differences between the two vaccines is that the H1N1 vaccine targets young people, not geriatric patients. If you have grand kids, should you get vaccinated? If you provide a significant amount of child care then yes, you should get both.

How effective are these vaccines? I'm not sure about the H1N1 vaccine, but for the flu virus it depends on the year. Sometimes the vaccine correctly predicts the version of the flu and sometimes it doesn't. Each year anywhere between 25-75% of the population gets the flu of varying severity. The flu vaccine can prevent the flu (when it is effective) about half the time. So you would need to vaccinate anywhere from 4-15 people approximately to prevent 1 case of the flu.

I do wonder if this means yearly vaccines with two flu vaccines. Maybe they can combine it one year. We'll see!

No comments: