Friday, December 18, 2009

Why this Maine CDC staffer got a nasal spray vaccine

I am a healthy 30-year-old, and I’ve never had a flu shot in my life. (Although I’ve complained to almost anyone who will listen that I had the flu for my seventh and eighteenth birthdays – which made both birthdays completely miserable.)

I normally work in the HIV, STD, and Viral Hepatitis program at Maine CDC, but I’ve been reassigned to help with H1N1 communications since late July. I’ve been combing through scientific jargon, trying to boil it down for people like me who don’t have medical or public health degrees. I’ve been updating our web site, this blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace. I’ve sat through meetings with people who DO have medical and public health degrees and can explain some of the scientific jargon in common sense terms.

I’ve learned a couple of very simple things these last few months: Vaccination is the single most effective way of avoiding the flu, and the benefits of getting the H1N1 vaccine far outweigh the very small risk of serious complications from vaccination.

So, yesterday, I got my very first flu vaccine. I opted for the nasal spray, because I know that it is safe and effective. I’m healthy, not pregnant, well over two years-old and under 49. There was no reason for me NOT to get the nasal spray vaccine (also a first for me). If I had gotten an injected vaccine, it’s possible that I would have deprived someone at high risk from the shot that could save them from getting very sick.

I took pictures of Dr. Mills getting her nasal spray vaccine as well. (If it looks like she’s grimacing, it’s more about the flash from my camera than anything else.)

- Tara Thomas
H1N1 Communications Coordinator, Maine CDC

For more information on nasal spray vaccine:
Our Fact Sheet:
Vaccine Information Statement:

Maine CDC is encouraging health care providers with sufficient supplies to provide vaccine to all who want it, and those without sufficient vaccine to focus their supply on those in the high priority groups: pregnant and recently pregnant women; household members and caregivers of infants younger than six months old; all people ages 6 months through 24 years; people ages 25 through 64 with underlying health conditions; and health care and EMS workers.

Over the coming days and weeks, vaccine will become more available in a variety of settings, including health care provider offices, public clinics, retail locations, large employer settings, nursing homes, etc. People have three easy options in seeking vaccine: check the clinic locator at, call 211, or call their health care providers.

For now, we request that nasal spray vaccine be given to anyone who is eligible to receive it. Nasal spray flu vaccine is not new. It has been used successfully in many settings for seasonal flu vaccination since 2003. Even if you come into regular contact with people who cannot receive the nasal spray vaccine themselves you may still be able to receive the nasal spray vaccine as long as you are healthy, not pregnant, and age 2 through 49. The nasal spray vaccine is safe for breastfeeding mothers. Health care workers who cannot receive the vaccine themselves (due to pregnancy, health condition, or age) may still administer the vaccine.

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