Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Editorial »Opinion Seniors, Don't Be Frightened About Need For H1N1 Flu Vaccine

Published on 9/7/2009
By Kathryn Johnson

The author of the letter titled “Seniors vulnerable and need to have vaccines,” published Aug. 22, asked a few questions about the H1N1 vaccine that might confuse seniors about the H1N1 vaccine recommendation.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) takes the lead in recommending which specific flu vaccine should be prepared each year, and which group is at most risk and should be immunized first.

Traditional flu vaccine

Traditionally, seniors have been considered at risk for the seasonal flu. There is no indication that the usual recommendations for the seasonal flu shot will be any different than the previous years, in which seniors will be targeted for the immunization, along with other groups with specific medical conditions.

The H1N1 influenza virus is different. It has features similar to the swine flu, which is similar to the flu that caused the epidemic of 1918.

In that epidemic, U.S. soldiers from World War I brought back the virus from overseas and the death rate was most high in the younger population, and not in the seniors.

The CDC is recommending that the vaccine for the H1N1 be first given to the groups that have been most affected, based on the research into the H1N1 flu in the last year.

Small children and pregnant women are most at risk, then older children and young adults and certain adults with chronic diseases.

Strong senior antibodies

It may be that the group older than age 65 have more antibodies than the younger groups for this specific virus.

So seniors, get ready to get your usual seasonal flu shot, but be aware that you may not need the H1N1 vaccine, which will be a two-shot series and will be available after the seasonal flu shot. There will be much smaller quantities of this H1N1 vaccine, so be prepared to allow the high risk groups to receive it first.

Ask your doctor at your next regularly scheduled appointment what he or she recommends.

Editor's note: The writer is a physician who lives in East Lyme and practices preventive medicine.


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