Flu Swine Vaccine

The H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu, is an influenza type A virus. This year, health officials are worrying about the extent and severity of H1N1 infection on top of normal seasonal influenza infections. As of December 2009, the CDC’s recommendation for high-risk groups is to obtain a regular seasonal flu vaccine, plus an additional H1N1 vaccine. This article will cover the purpose, mechanism, components, and availability of the H1N1 vaccine.

Why Do We Need an H1N1 Vaccine?

Influenza type A viruses are responsible for the flu outbreaks every winter and early spring. Influenza viruses cause moderate to severe symptoms, including coughing, sneezing, and aches—and in rare cases, they can be fatal.

The World Health Organization reports approximately 250,000 to 500,000 deaths from influenza each year. In addition, three to five million individuals are affected with severe illness. Every few decades, a virulent pandemic strain of influenza emerges that can spread across continents and affect large populations—such as the swine flu.

Immunity and Illness

The human immune system is very complex. Adaptability is one of its most important characteristics. When an individual encounters a foreign microorganism for the first time, her immune system mounts a primary response. Memory B-cells and T-cells develop based upon the unique physical and chemical pattern of the foreign invader. The next time that the body encounters that same microorganism, the memory cells can react swiftly and effectively to eliminate the offending agent.

Vaccines utilize the talents of our immune system by creating reserve memory immune cells for a potential infection by the real pathogen. Vaccines are the most effective preventive measure available against influenza viruses, including H1N1.

Components of the H1N1 Vaccine

The H1N1 vaccine can be produced in two different ways:

  • killed or live.
  • Killed, or inactivated, viruses are safe and well tolerated, reaching from sixty to ninety percent efficacy. This type of vaccine is administered with a needle, usually in the upper arm.
  • In contrast, live viruses can be used in nasal sprays to produce a longer lasting immune response. Also, they may enhance local immunity of the respiratory tract. It takes approximately two weeks for your body to produce antibodies that can protect you from the H1N1 virus. Because of this delay, it is important that vaccinations occur as early as possible before the start of the flu season.

How Swine Flu Vaccine is Made - H1N1 Flu Vaccine

Where to get the H1N1 Vaccine

Health officials have set a priority list for those who would like to get the H1N1 vaccine. The following people should get the H1N1 flu shot from their hospital or clinic:

  • Children from six months to five years old
  • Health care workers
  • People 50 years of age and older
  • People of any age with certain chronic health conditions
  • People who live in nursing homes
  • Pregnant women.

Only a handful of companies produce flu shots—this year, they are asked to produce both the seasonal flu shot and H1N1 flu shot, so shortages are inevitable. Check your local hospitals to see where and when you can obtain both vaccines.

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention staff. (2009). Key facts about 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine. Retrieved December 4, 2009, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site: http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/vaccination/vaccine_keyfacts.htm.

Hitti, M. (2009). CDC: Swine flu vaccine delay frustrating. Retrieved December 5, 2009, from the Web MD Web site: http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/news/20091023/cdc-swine-flu-vaccine-delay-frustrating.

McNeil, D. (2009). Nation is facing shortage of seasonal flu vaccine. Retrieved December 5, 2009, from the New York Times Web site: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/05/health/05flu.html.