Still confused about what's going to happen with swine flu shots next month? You're not alone. The federal government and individual states still haven't told us how they're going to distribute the vaccine, or when. Yesterday's chirpy press release from the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases made it easy to think that all children will need just one swine flu immunization, but that's not true. The younger a child is, the less well his or her immune system responded to the swine flu vaccine in clinical trials. So children under age 10 will need two doses of swine flu vaccine, one month apart, according to the NIAID itself.
You'd have a hard time figuring that out from the press release, which quoted NIAID director Anthony Fauci saying, "This is very encouraging news." Only if your children are over age 10, Tony.
Fortunately, there still are good health reporters and bloggers out there who make a point of untangling the government's often-knotted flu pronouncements. Some of my all-time faves are the public-health experts at Effect Measure, who earlier today delivered a typically tart analysis of the government's effort to put the brightest possible interpretation on the latest flu news.
The Asthma Mom follows flu news super-closely, because children with asthma are much more likely to develop pneumonia or other complications after having the flu. In a recent post, she points out that swine flu can attack the lungs' alveoli, damaging them and causing acute respiratory distress syndrome. This makes H1N1 very different from regular seasonal flu and much more like avian flu, which also targets young healthy people.
And the federal recommendation that children be vaccinated for both seasonal flu and H1N1 swine flu this fall has alarmed people who think that vaccines are implicated in causing autism and other disorders. There's no scientific evidence of that, but if you'd like to get clued in to those concerns, Barbara Loe Fisher's National Vaccine Information Center website provides an encyclopedic overview.
The idea of four doses of flu vaccine in one season is daunting, and no vaccine is risk free. But seasonal flu vaccines are among the safest out there, and the H1N1 vaccine is being made in the same way, in the same factories. (You can compare the odds of having various bad side effects of different vaccines with this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention site listing vaccine side effects.) As I reported earlier, so far this year about 25 out of every 100,000 children who have come down with H1N1 flu have become so sick that they had to be hospitalized. So there is risk either way. But at this point, the health risk appears to be far higher from H1N1 flu than from the vaccine against it.
Had enough of grim news and tough decisions? John Clarke of Baldwin, N.Y., the rapping doc who gets his groove on while recommending 20-second hand-washes, won the flu.gov's best video contest on YouTube! More than 50,000 people voted on the videos. Here's his winning stop H1N1 rap video.