Local News

Most adults asked to wait on H1N1 vaccine

Posted September 24, 2009 7:00 p.m. EDT

— The World Health Organization said Thursday that vaccine manufacturers will be able to produce about 3 billion doses to combat the H1N1 flu virus, down from the 5 billion doses previously expected.

North Carolina expects to get its initial shipment of between 500,000 and 1 million vaccine doses next month, and health care providers are asking most adults to wait a few weeks before getting immunized. Providers said people in high-risk groups should be first in line to receive the vaccine.

The WHO said clinical trials show a single dose should be enough to provide healthy adults with protection against H1N1. Previously, some officials thought two shots might be needed to immunize people from the virus.

The priority groups for vaccination include pregnant women, children ages 6 months to 24 years, people who live with or care for a child younger than 6 months old, health care workers, emergency services personnel and people ages 25 to 64 with weakened immune systems.

"This is not a rationed vaccine," said Dr. Megan Davies, state epidemiologist.

Still, Davies said, health officials will try to talk people not in one of the priority groups out of getting vaccinated in the next few weeks.

"People who are in these targeted groups are the people who are more likely to get complicated illnesses when they get the flu, and that's why we are reaching out to them first," she said. "I think most people, when they understand that, want to do the right thing."

Public health officials said the biggest challenge they face is figuring out how to make sure those in the high-risk categories can get vaccinated.

"It's consuming pretty much of our time right now, just in the planning," said Gayle Harris, Durham County health director.

Durham County plans to establish some mass vaccinations sites, possibly at local schools, Harris said. People should check with  their physician first to see if they are offering the vaccine before they call the health department, she said.

"Initially, we know we'll get a very small shipment," she said.

Not everybody in the high-risk categories wants the H1N1 vaccine.

Dawn Simmons, for example, said she hasn't decided if she'll get the her twin girls vaccinated.

"Anything new, I'm just a little hesitant to put something like that in my child until (I) know more about it," Simmons said.

Davies said the vaccine is safe, and although the spread of swine flu hasn't been as bad as expected so far, she said getting immunized is worth the effort.

"The fortunate thing is this is more of a Category 1 hurricane than a Category 5 hurricane in terms of severity," she said.