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H1N1 Flu Vaccine: What You Need to Know

For months we’ve have been waiting for the H1N1 vaccine to arrive in the U.S. – and now it looks like that wait is almost over. The new vaccine should be in some doctors' offices as early as Monday, according to U.S. health officials.

But even though we’ve had weeks upon weeks to think about the new vaccine, many of us still have questions. So, FOXNews.com sought out the advice of a few health experts to help us sort through all of this.

Q: Is the inhaled version of the vaccine, FluMist, coming first or will there also be shots available next week as well?

“States are ordering the nasal spray today,” Tom Skinner, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. “We have several million doses of that available. We expect to have the injectable vaccine available for order shortly… states will receive nasal spray next week, followed by injectable vaccine.”

Q. What exactly is FluMist and who can get it?

“FluMist is a live modified H1N1 virus,” Dr. Peter Welch, an infectious disease doctor at Northern Westchester Hospital, Mount Kisco, N.Y., told FOXNews.com. “It’s sprayed into the nose and gives you a mild infection of the virus, which will prevent you from getting a more severe infection from the native virus.”

It is important to note that you cannot get the flu from the vaccine.

Still, FluMist is not for everyone.

“The nasal spray is for healthy individuals, ages 2 to 49,” Skinner said. “People with chronic underlying health conditions can’t get this vaccine.”

The good news is the injectable vaccine is on the heels of this nasal spray, Skinner said, so people will compromised immune systems will be able to get that as soon as it’s available – hopefully within the next few weeks.

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine said the vaccine shot was shown to be more effective in adults than the nasal spray.

MedImmune, the manufacturer of FluMist, disagrees with the NEJM study, saying other studies prove its product is just as effective in adults and children.

Q: Can you get the H1N1 shot and seasonal vaccine at the same time?

According to the CDC, the inactivated H1N1 vaccine can be administered at the same visit as any other vaccine, including pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine. Live H1N1 vaccine can be administered at the same visit as any other live or inactivated vaccine EXCEPT seasonal live attenuated influenza vaccine.

Q: Who will need one shot and who will need two H1N1 shots?

“Children under the age of 10, who have never been vaccinated, need two shots of seasonal vaccine, and will likely need two H1N1 shots as well,” Skinner said. “Children older than 10, can receive one of each.”

Q: What are the side effects to either shot? Is it true the side effects for both shots are the same?

“Yes they both are the same,” Skinner said. “You may experience some tenderness at the site of the shot or swelling and maybe some redness. And if you have never been vaccinated before, you might get a low-grade fever – but you cannot get the flu from getting vaccine.”

Even though there’s no vaccine that is 100 percent safe, Welch said, it’s still imperative that people get these vaccines, especially those with compromised immune systems,.

“People need to get these vaccines because these illnesses are so much more severe than any side effects they will experience,” he added.

Q. What if I’m allergic to eggs?

“People who are severely allergic to eggs should not get either vaccine because the vaccines are made from embryonated eggs,” Welch said. “And there can be some egg proteins in the vaccine, which means a person allergic to eggs could potentially have a reaction.”


Flu vaccines have been made from embryonated eggs for a long time, Welch said, so if you’re allergic, talk to your doctor about whether they can get a vaccine that’s not made from eggs. If you can’t, you need to stay away from sick people, and if you do get sick, go see your doctor right away.

Q: Who’s first in line?

— Pregnant women who are considered 4-times more likely than the general population to experience complications from the H1N1 flu.

— People who live with and/or care for infants under the age of 6 months and children, i.e. parents, siblings, daycare providers, teachers.

— Health care and emergency medical providers.

— Children age 6 months to adults up to the age of 24. The attack rate for children between the ages of 5 and 14 is 14 times higher than that for adults over the age of 50.

— People age 25 to 64 years old with underlying health conditions that put them at high risk for influenza complications.

Q. Do people have any immunity to the H1N1 flu strain?

“People do not have immunity to H1N1 because it is a new strain of virus,” Welch said. This is why, in general, we expect a large number of cases of H1N1 because the population doesn’t have any immunity to it.”

On the other hand, Welch said many people in the population have some immunity to the seasonal flu because of they’ve had it in the past and have had the seasonal flu vaccine in the past.

“Most people who are exposed to H1N1 will probably get the disease due to no immunity,” he said. “That’s why it’s important get vaccinated.”

Q: How long will it take for either shot to provide protection?

Skinner said it will take about a week to 10 days for the shots to provide protection.

Q: How long does a flu vaccine last for?

People can be expected to be protected for the entire flu season, Skinner said, until March or April.

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