Questions surround H1N1 vaccine

Wanda English Burnett

A good portion of the Ripley County Council meeting held October 19 was devoted to granting appropriations for the health department, as requested by Pat Thomas, administrator for the county health department.

The money, which comes from federal funds, was appropriated for Thomas for operating, supplies and equipment as the H1N1 vaccine gets in full swing.

“We are told we will get enough (of the vaccine) for everybody...eventually,” Thomas told the council.

Right now medical providers are receiving the first round of the vaccine that has been delivered to Ripley County, according to Thomas. Ripley County Emergency Management Director Wayne Peace received the first vaccine.

Thomas explained that there is a priority list of who gets the vaccine and when. “It’s a process,” she noted, asking the public for patience as they get the vaccines to everyone who wants it “as quick as we can.”

Consent forms have been sent to area schools with more than a 65% return of parents saying they want their child to be vaccinated, according to Thomas.

Some people are leery about the vaccine, especially the “live” nasal spray variety. This particular vaccine is described by the Center for Disease Control or CDC as a “live, attenuated intranasal vaccine...that is sprayed into the nose.”

They further note that this vaccine does not contain thimerosal or other preservatives and is licensed for people from age 2 through 49. The CDC says, “The vaccine virus is attenuated (weakened) so it will not cause illness.”

Who should get the live vaccine?

The recommendation from the CDC for those needing to be vaccinated with the live virus are those from the age of 2 through 24 years of age. Also, it is recommended for those who are from 25 through 49 years of age and live with or care for infants younger than six months or are health care or emergency medical personnel.

They say as more vaccines become available, other healthy 25-49 year olds should also be vaccinated.

While the information that is projected from every media outlet on a daily basis becomes confusing, the CDC says that certain groups of people should not get the live vaccine including pregnant women, people with long-term health problems, and children from age six months to two years of age. They do say it is important that the above group of people be vaccinated and should get the flu shot.

What are the risks of the live vaccine?

The Department of Health and Human Services Center for Disease Control and Prevention had this to say:

“A vaccine, like any medicine, could cause a serious problem, such as a severe allergic reaction. But the risk of any vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small.”

Some mild problems have been reported in children ages 2-17 such as a runny nose, nasal congestion, cough, headache, muscle aches, abdominal pain, occasional vomiting or diarrhea, fever, and wheezing.

The CDC reports that adults ages 18-49 have reported some of the same symptoms, along with cough, chills, tiredness, weakness, sore throat and headaches.

If severe problems from the vaccine occurs, the CDC says it is very rare and is usually within a few minutes to a few hours following receipt of the vaccination.

What if there is a severe reaction?

People are advised that signs of a severe allergic reaction can include difficulty breathing, hoarseness or wheezing, hives, paleness, weakness, a fast heart beat or dizziness.

You are advised to call a doctor right away if these symptoms do occur. Also it is advised that you ask your provider of the vaccine to file a Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System form, or you can file this yourself by going online at or by calling 1-800-822-7967.

What about the inactivated flu shot?

The vaccines for the H1N1 influenza also come in the form of an inactivated vaccine, meaning the vaccine has killed virus in it. It is given in shot form, much like the regular seasonal flu shot, injected into the muscle.

The CDC says the inactive flu shot for the H1N1 virus is expected to be as safe and effective as the seasonal flu vaccines. They also note that this particular vaccine will not prevent “influenza-like” illnesses caused by other viruses. In other words, they will not prevent the seasonal flu. You should also be vaccinated for the seasonal flu as well as the H1N1 type.

Who should get the inactive flu shot?

The CDC says pregnant women, people who live with or care for infants younger then six months of age, health care and emergency medical personnel, and anyone from six months through 24 years of age. They also recommend anyone who is 25 through 64 years of age with certain chronic medical conditions or a weakened immune system.

It is recommended as the vaccine becomes available that healthy 25-64 year olds receive the vaccination as well as adults 65 years and older. Basically, the recommendation is that eventually nearly everyone should receive some form of the vaccine, according to CDC authorities.

If you have a life-threatening allergy to eggs or to any other substance in the vaccine, you should not get it. You should tell your provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction after receiving a dose of the season flu vaccine, have Guillain Barre’ Syndrome (a severe paralytic illness also called GBS), or if you are moderately or severely ill, you might be advised to wait until you are better before receiving the vaccine.

What does smoking have to do with the H1N1 virus?

The Indiana Department of Health issued this statement, “Persons that smoke are more likely to suffer from the flu than nonsmokers.”

“If you are a smoker, now is a good time to quit,” encouraged local health director Pat Thomas. For free help from a trained Quit Coach you can call 1-800-Quit-Now.

“Quitting smoking is one of the best preventative measures against pandemic H1N1 influenza virus, not only for you but for anyone, children, family members, and roommates, that may live with you,” noted information from the state health department. They provide statistics that say within 20 minutes after quitting smoking your heart rate drops. It gets better from there, and within 12 hours the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal. Within 15 years after quitting the habit, the risk of coronary heart disease is back to that of a nonsmoker’s.

All of the additional appropriations, 11 in total, concerning appropriating money for the H1N1 vaccines were unanimously approved by the Ripley County Council.

Thomas said her office has had numerous calls and wants the public to know they are working very diligently to get the vaccine to those who want it. It will just come in waves. She said as soon as a “clinic” is set up for the general public they will be notified. “We’re trying to keep people as informed as possible,” she noted, saying sometimes that is hard to do when you don’t know what’s happening on the state level.

“It’s been a challenge trying to plan to distribute the vaccine as the amount we are told we will be receiving changes frequently,” Thomas said. She said they are told they will be receiving the vaccine weekly. Dr. Robinson, Ripley County Health Board President noted, “The bright side of this is, that we are actually receiving some vaccine much earlier than first predicted.”

You can learn more about the H1N1 virus and vaccine by calling 1-800-232-4636 or visit the CDC’s website at or www.cdc.govflu.

According to Thomas, a local hotline is being set up. As soon as that number becomes available, it will be published.

Vicky Powell, Ripley County Health Nurse, gives the very first H1N1 vaccine shot to Wayne Peace, emergency management director for the county. The first wave of vaccines are being given to health care providers but eventually the county expects to have enough for everyone that wants one.

Emergency signs of H1N1 virus

In children, the emergency signs include fast or troubled breathing, bluish skin color, not drinking enough fluids, not waking up or not interacting, being so irritable the child doesn’t even want to be held, flu-like symptoms improve, but then return with fever and a worsened cough, and a fever with a rash.

Adults could also experience difficulty with breathing, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion and severe or persistent vomiting.

It is not recommended that people go to the emergency room if they are only a little sick. However, if you have the above emergency warning signs you should go to the emergency room.

If you get sick with flu symptoms and are a high risk of flu complications it is recommended you call your health care provider for advise. The CDC says if you go to the emergency room and are not sick with the flu, you might catch it from being around people in the emergency room who do have the virus.

Some parents are asking how long children should stay home if they are sick with the flu. The CDC recommends that all infected should stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care. The fever needs to be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine. You should stay home from any social event where you are interacting with others.

Flu symptoms can include a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting. Not everyone with the flu will run a fever.

Parting words of advice throughout the whole flu season this year is to be vigilant, watch for signs, don’t be afraid to call your doctor or go to the emergency room if warranted, and wash your hands - wash your hands - wash your hands.