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Time to get your flu shot, but just one this year

Associated Press | 9/1/2010, 5:24 a.m.

Will I need just one shot?
Most people will, but any children under 9 getting their first-ever flu vaccine will need two, a month apart, to prime their immune systems.

What if my child’s first-ever vaccine was last year and she got one dose of seasonal and one dose of swine flu vaccine?

She wasn’t primed enough and needs her two doses this year, said Dr. Michael Brady of Nationwide Children’s Hospital, who co-authored the American Academy of Pediatrics flu vaccination guidelines out Monday.

Will there be enough vaccine?
Manufacturers project 170 million doses. Obviously that won’t cover the entire population, but the CDC knows its near-universal vaccination policy won’t spark a stampede for shots. Before last year, flu vaccine was recommended for 85 percent of Americans but only about a third got vaccinated. Last year nearly all 114 million doses of seasonal vaccine were used, but as the swine flu outbreak slowed, just 90 million doses of the special vaccine were used out of nearly 162 million eventually produced for the general public.

Who’s at high risk from flu?
Young children, anyone 50 or older, anyone with chronic medical conditions such as asthma or heart disease, pregnant women. Also, health workers and caregivers of infants can infect the vulnerable unless vaccinated.

Who can use the nasal spray vaccine?
FluMist is for healthy people 2 to 49, who are not pregnant and do not have underlying health conditions.

When should vaccination start?
Chain pharmacies already have started vaccinating; protection will last all winter. It takes about two weeks to kick in, and flu typically starts circulating around November.

How do I know it’s safe?
Unprecedented safety monitoring last year turned up no rare side effects from the special swine flu-only vaccine sold in the United States. “We’re hoping a lot of the myths people had about the influenza vaccine may be a little bit less of a concern,” said pediatrics specialist Brady.

Abroad, a few reports of narcolepsy after a European swine flu vaccine are being probed; that vaccine didn’t sell here. An Australian seasonal vaccine dosed for young children won’t be sold here after being linked to some fever-related seizures in that country.

Why should I bother since fewer people than usual died last year?
Last year’s U.S. toll: about 12,000 deaths, 60 million illnesses and 265,000 hospitalizations. New CDC statistics last week suggest flu strain mortality varies widely, from 3,000 in an exceptionally mild year to 49,000 in a recent really bad one — and it’s impossible to predict how bad each year will be.

Associated Press