- The Washington Times - Friday, October 9, 2009

Health officials say it is possible for most people to simultaneously take the seasonal flu and H1N1 flu vaccine — one shot in each arm — making protective care more convenient as the number of flu cases increase nationwide.

Previously authorities were unsure about the possibility, leaving Americans unsure about how they were going to juggle scheduling two different trips to a doctor or a clinic. At the time it was thought, too, that two shots of the novel vaccine might be necessary but that, also, is not likely for most people.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, reported the findings at Friday’s briefing at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A single dose of H1N1 will provide protection for most people, although children may require two, the CDC previously had announced. Further studies done on the effectiveness of the immune response at 21 days confirm this, he said.

The H1N1 influenza is circulating in “virtually the entire country” and is “widespread in 37 states, up from last week,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

“Unfortunately, 19 more pediatric deaths have been reported this past week,” she said, two-thirds of which occurred in children with underlying conditions. That brings the total number of children dying from the virus to 76 since April, she noted. The past three years have seen the total number of deaths to children from flu to be between 46 and 88, “and this is only the begining of October,” she added.

All states and the District have placed orders for the new flu vaccine and “places that had outbreaks last spring are having incidents now,” she said.

Flu mist, the nasal spray version, was delivered for the first time this week; the injectable vaccine is expected to be available — “in some places” — next week. CDC plans twice-weekly updates beginning Tuesday on amounts and locations. The government expects a total of 250 million doses to be available by the end of the year.

The nasal spray is only being recommended for healthy people 2 to 49 years of age, but the CDC is not advising anyone to get two doses of the nasal spray at the same time, however. When both seasonal and H1N1 flu is circulating widely, sites will have a choice of both methods on hand. But the flu season often lasts all the way until May, as Dr. Schuchat warned, “and is difficult to predict.”

Seasonal flu has come early this year, she noted, and, while there have been some lags in distribution, some 77 million doses were in the pipeline this week, “more than we ever have had.” The federal government purchases only 10 percent of the seasonal flu vaccine, she said, but this year is underwriting all doses of H1N1 vaccine. Certain sites, such as chain stores, are charging what they call “an administration fee” that is usually no more than $25.

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