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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Flu Shots...

"Emergency hospital during 1918 influenza epidemic, Camp Funston, Kansas" Courtesy of the National Museum of Health and Medicine, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Washington, D.C., Image NCP

We all got our flu shots today. For the 2005 – 2006 flu season we are protected against the following viruses:

• A/New Caledonian (H1N1 like virus)
• A/California (H3N2 like virus)
• B/Shanghai/361/2002-like virus

What is discouraging is how many people actually refuse to get vaccinated.

This year the CDC has begun a new methodology for flu vaccinations. Because of the vaccine shortfall of last year, and then the subsequent 1.5 million doses that weren’t sold or administered, the CDC has begun a tier approach for vaccinating different groups of people. This new approach should help prevent the panic of last year’s shortfall and ensure that all who need, or want, to be vaccinated are.

In accordance with the tier approach , it is recommended that the high-risk groups are vaccinated first and then the remainder of the population is vaccinated a few weeks later. The high-priority, or targeted, groups are given special consideration until October 24, 2005. After this date the vaccines then become widely available to all other citizens.

There’s some good news about the Avian flu H5N1. Testing began in April of this year on a new H5N1 vaccine. Hopefully that will be available soon to help prevent the spread of this virus. On the flip side here, there seems to be some difficulty in making a safe vaccine for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). This coronavirus seems to be a tough one for the scientists. They are still trying to develop a safe and effective vaccine for this dangerous disease. However, there are clinical trials that are underway in China using an inactivated SARS-CoV vaccine.

The nurse who administered our vaccines today stated that she felt that there was going to be a shortage of vaccines this year. When I asked her why, she stated, “Because of the shortage from last year… there are going to be more people getting vaccinated.” She also justified this claim by saying that they had only received 44% of their flu vaccine order for this season. I cannot find any evidence of such a problem. After some, although not extensive, research I feel that maybe their order was affected by the new tiered distribution of the vaccines. It is possible that the nurse wasn’t fully informed about the situation.

Either way, my entire household is vaccinated against the flu this year. That’s a good thing. I hope that everyone else will seriously consider getting vaccinated also.


The flu pandemic of 1918 killed more people than WWI. More people died in one year from the flu than the four-year duration of the Black Plague. It is estimated that 20 to 40 million people died from the flu in 1918 world-wide.


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