An update Q&A from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Q. What are the plans for developing novel H1N1 vaccine?
A. Vaccines are the most powerful public health tool for control of influenza, and the U.S. government is working closely with manufacturers to take steps in the process to manufacture a novel H1N1 vaccine. Working together with scientists in the public and private sector, CDC has isolated the new H1N1 virus and modified the virus so that it can be used to make hundreds of millions of doses of vaccine. Vaccine manufacturers are now using these materials to begin vaccine production. Making vaccine is a multi-step process which takes several months to complete. Candidate vaccines will be tested in clinical trials over the few months.
Q. When is it expected that the novel H1N1 vaccine will be available?
A. The novel H1N1 vaccine is expected to be available in the fall. More specific dates cannot be provided at this time as vaccine availability depends on several factors including manufacturing time and time needed to conduct clinical trials
Q. Will the seasonal flu vaccine also protect against the novel H1N1 flu?
A. The seasonal flu vaccine is not expected to protect against the novel H1N1 flu.
Q. Can the seasonal vaccine and the novel H1N1 vaccine be given at the same time?
A. Clinical trial results will be necessary to confirm that novel H1N1 and seasonal vaccine will be safe and effective if given at the same time. We expect the seasonal vaccine to be available earlier than the H1N1 vaccine. The usual seasonal influenza viruses are still expected to cause illness this fall and winter. Individuals are encouraged to get their seasonal flu vaccine as soon as it is available.
Q. Who will be recommended as priority groups to receive the novel H1N1 vaccine?
A. Based on what we're currently seeing with respect to the virus and epidemiologic data, states, communities, and health care providers should begin planning strategies for how they will vaccinate younger people (children and younger adults), pregnant women, healthcare personnel, and people who have underlying health conditions. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and other federal advisory bodies will continue to monitor the virus and review epidemiologic data over the summer. We'll be looking to the ACIP and other stakeholders, as well as the public, as we move forward in our planning. It is possible that vaccine priority groups will differ from earlier guidance as more data becomes available however it's very important for planning to continue based on information currently available.
Q. Where will the vaccine be available?
A. Every state is developing a vaccine delivery plan. Vaccine will be available in a combination of settings such as vaccination clinics organized by local health departments, healthcare provider offices, schools, and other private settings, such as pharmacies and workplaces.
Q. Are there other ways to prevent the spread of illness?
A. Take everyday actions to stay healthy.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
- Stay home if you get sick. CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and other social distancing measures. These measures will continue to be important after a novel H1N1 vaccine is available because they can prevent the spread of other viruses that cause respiratory infections.
Q. What about the use of antivirals to treat novel H1N1 infection?
A. Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaled powder) that fight against the flu by keeping flu viruses from reproducing in your body. If you get sick, antiviral drugs can make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. They may also prevent serious flu complications. This fall, antivirals may be prioritized for persons with severe illness or those at higher risk for flu complications.