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Countries in the northern hemisphere are starting to distribute the
H1N1 flu vaccine as part of a massive immunization program against the
viral pandemic. Parents and some professionals are concerned about the
safety of the vaccine, while some doctors question the ability of
hospitals to handle serious cases.
Demand for the H1N1 flu vaccine has drawn scores of people to vaccination clinics in the U.S.
Michelle Lowrey has three young children and one on the way. "I have every reason to be here today," she said.
women have a higher risk of complications from the H1N1. And at least
86 American children have died from the new virus.
Blake is concerned about her young son. "He's high risk, he had open
heart surgery as a baby so I've been very nervous for him," she said.
The US Centers for Disease Control reports this new flu virus has spread throughout most of the United States.
Still, some Americans say they will not get vaccinated.
"We live in Sacramento," said one man. "There's some cases of the swine flu there, but not a lot, so [it] just hasn't really affected us."
are concerned about the safety of the vaccine because it has been
produced so fast, and because it contains a preservative that some
parents say can cause autism.
Dr. Anne Schuchat from the Centers for Disease Control says the vaccine is safe and is also available without the preservative.
are not cutting any corners in the safety of the production of this
vaccine or in the testing and oversight of this vaccine," she said.
"And it's very important that this process be done carefully and
Public health officials and doctors are redoubling efforts to promote vaccination as the best protection against H1N1.
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Peter Holbrook at Children's National Medical Center in Washington says
people are mistaken if they think the flu is similar to a cold.
very important to think very clearly about the vaccination and the
disease we're preventing," he said. "This is not a mild disease, it's a
Dr. Holbrook says even mild cases cause serious illness and severe cases can worsen rapidly.
are concerned that many hospitals may not have enough doctors or staff
to handle a major outbreak. Dr. Arthur Kellermann at Emory School of
Medicine is concerned about where to put patients who need intensive
"We need [to] prepare our critical care units and our
healthcare systems for the possibility of making very tough choices
about who gets into an intensive care unit and who does not get into an
intensive care unit," he said.
If the H1N1 virus follows the
course it took when it broke out last March, the disease will peak and
then fall off in roughly seven weeks. If that is the case, Dr. Holbrook
says it may already be near the peak in the United States.
"But that's only with the understanding that there could easily be another wave that comes in the winter time," he said.
One thing all specialists agree on is a novel flu is unpredictable.
And there is not enough H1N1 vaccine to go around, even in the United States.
The World Health Organization says international donations of the vaccine should arrive in developing countries in a few weeks.