HEALTH AND WELLNESS: H1N1 still lurksIf you haven’t already been vaccinated for the H1N1 flu, now is a good time, health officials say. Because it takes about two weeks for the vaccination to become effective, it’s better to be vaccinated when there’s a lull in flu activity than during peak season, said Kathy Dunn, Grand Forks County Public Health Department immunization program coordinator. Although H1N1 activity has quieted in recent weeks, there still is a possibility there could be a third wave of the flu.
If you haven’t already been vaccinated for the H1N1 flu, now is a good time, health officials say.
Because it takes about two weeks for the vaccination to become effective, it’s better to be vaccinated when there’s a lull in flu activity than during peak season, said Kathy Dunn, Grand Forks County Public Health Department immunization program coordinator. Although H1N1 activity has quieted in recent weeks, there still is a possibility there could be a third wave of the flu.
“These viruses are unpredictable,” Dunn said. “You don’t know what they’re going to do.….A person’s best protection is to get vaccinated.”
As of Feb. 4, less than 24 percent of North Dakota’s population had been vaccinated, said Molly Sander, North Dakota Department of Health Division of Disease Control immunization program manager.
Preliminary data from the North Dakota Immunization Information System, the state’s immunization registry showed that as of Feb. 2:
• 50.1 percent of pregnant women had been vaccinated.
• 67.9 percent of health care workers had been vaccinated.
• 21.5 percent of children ages 6 months to 18 years had been fully vaccinated. Children 6 months to 9 years need two doses of the vaccine. Thirty four percent of children had received at least one dose.
• 68. 4 percent of contacts to infants younger than 6 months had been vaccinated.
• 9.8 percent of adults ages 19 to 24 had been vaccinated.
• 12.1 percent of adults aged 25 to 64 with chronic medical conditions had been vaccinated.
• 7.6 percent of health adults ages 25 to 64 had been vaccinated.
• 13.8 percent of adults ages 65 and older had been vaccinated.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health as of Jan. 29:
• 7 percent of children ages 6 months to 23 months had been vaccinated.
n 11 percent of children ages 24 to 59 months had been vaccinated.
• 26 percents of children ages five to 18 have been vaccinated
• 22 percent of adults ages 25 to 49 have been vaccinated.
• 16 percent of adults ages 50 to 65 have been vaccinated.
• 14 percent of adults ages 65 and older have been vaccinated.
Dr. James Hargreaves, Altru Health System infectious disease specialist, attributes the low immunization numbers to several factors.
“One of the things was the difficulty of getting the vaccine,” he said, noting that last fall it wasn’t readily available. Another reason people aren’t getting vaccinated is that they have a perception that H1N1 peaked during October and November 2009, so getting vaccinated is no longer an issue, Hargreaves said.
“Then you have the anti-vaccine people and then you have the people who think they’re invincible,” Hargreaves said. Hargreaves believes the vaccine is safe and recommends that people get vaccinated.
When people ask him why they should be immunized, “I just tell them about all of the 40 and 50 year olds I was taking care of on ventilators this year” because they had complications from the H1N1 flu, Hargreaves said.
“They were healthy until they got the flu. It’s very fool-hardy not to get the flu vaccine.”
Unlike last fall when H1N1 vaccines were in short supply, area private health care organizations and the Grand Forks Public Health Department now have a good supply on hand.
“It’s not too late. I would wholly recommend that people get their vaccines, both H1N1 and seasonal,” Hargreaves said. It makes only good sense to protect yourself.”
Dunn, like Hargreaves, believes the vaccination is safe.
“They’ve administered millions and millions of doses to date. There haven’t been any serious reactions reported,” Dunn said.
While some people only have mild or moderate reactions to the flu, other people have been hit hard enough to be hospitalized and there have been fatalities resulting from H1N1, Dunn said.
“You don’t know which category you fall in. If you prevent something, why wouldn’t you?
“When you get vaccinated, you not only protect yourself, you protect those around you,” she noted.
Bailey writes for special features sections. Reach her at (701) 787-6753; (800) 477-6572, ext. 753; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.