Another common question we're getting is why non-EMS first responders are not on the list of high priority populations for the H1N1 vaccine when it first arrives.
The list of high priority groups for H1N1 vaccine when it first arrives was developed based on the epidemiology of H1N1 in the United States, and is a list of those who have been shown to be at highest risk for complications from H1N1 or transmitting it to those at high risk. Health care workers, especially those with direct patient contact in hospitals, as well as EMS personnel, have been shown to be contracting H1N1 from patients as well as, most importantly, transmitting it to their patients who are at high risk for complications. For these reasons, they are on the list, along with pregnant women, everyone 6 months to 25 years of age, caregivers of those under 6 months of age, and those 25 – 65 years of age with underlying conditions.
Certainly, if non-EMS first responders fit into one of these other categories (such as being pregnant or having an underlying condition and being 25 – 65, etc), then we want them to be vaccinated in the first round.
We fully expect the H1N1 vaccine to be offered to everyone eventually. However, since it will be coming into the state in shipments, the US CDC has asked that we prioritize the vaccine during the first few weeks in those first shipments to those whom they define, through the epidemiology, as being at highest risk for complications and/or transmitting it to others.
I realize this prioritization will also result in some predicaments. For instance, I am not in a high-risk category, yet my children are. So, while I hope my children will be vaccinated in school during those first few weeks of the vaccine being available, I do not plan on getting the H1N1 vaccine until a few weeks later, when we expect there to be sufficient supplies for everyone. Likewise, a number of teachers will not be offered the vaccine for a few weeks, but the students they teach will.
Meanwhile, the seasonal (regular) flu vaccine will be available very shortly, and all first responders and others can obtain that vaccine, and we recommend they do so in September.
I hope this explanation helps. Dora