One of the most common question we're getting right now on H1N1 is from seniors who are concerned that they are not seeing themselves in the US CDC's high priority list for H1N1 vaccine. Here is how I've been answering this:
Most importantly, seniors (those over 64) are at risk for complications from seasonal influenza, and the vaccine for that is expected very soon. Seniors should arrange to have their regular (seasonal) flu shot very soon - preferably in September.
The H1N1 vaccine is expected to start arriving in mid-October. We anticipate that it will become available for everyone. However, since it will be arriving in shipments, US CDC has asked that the first few shipments be prioritized to those who are most commonly being severely affected by H1N1 infection such as pregnant women, children, nurses who work in hospitals, and EMS. Studies indicate that those over 64 seem to have some immunity to H1N1, which is probably why they are not being as commonly severely affected by the infection as young people are.
In Maine, we are planning a major focus on getting the first few shipments of vaccine to clinicians who care for pregnant women, schools, and hospitals. It is a Herculian effort to assure that those at high risk have access to the vaccine as well as to assure that everyone does eventually, but by working with many partners across the state - schools, home health organizations, health care systems and providers, emergency management, community organizations - I believe we can do this and do it well.
Thank you to all those who are assisting in this effort across the state! Dora
Dora Anne Mills, MD, MPH, FAAP