Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Swine flu vaccine

My doctor’s office has informed me they have received a limited amount of swine (H1N1) flu vaccine. They can only provide the swine flu vaccine to certain approved groups. Doctors must report each dose given to the State health department and explain why the person vaccinated was eligible to receive the vaccine. The approved groups are:

- pregnant women
- those caring for infants under 6 months old
- those 4 to 24 years old.

The vaccine is also recommended for children between 6 months and 4 years old but my doctor’s office has not yet received “an approved formulation” for those children.

I assume the eligible groups have been defined as people under 24 and those closely associated with them because viruses similar to H1N1 have turned up in the past and so the theory is that anyone over 24 probably has some immunity to the new variant.

May I just say I personally find that less than reassuring. My entire immune system was wiped out ten years ago - I had to be revaccinated for polio and so on - so I do not have any hope of being at all immune to H1N1. In addition I have a damaged lung which means it would be a really, really bad idea for me to get any serious respiratory illness.

Do I think the initial restrictions are wrong? No, not really. I’m all for protecting the young first. But I will be watching with a great deal of interest to see how much flexibility doctors have if the next release of swine flu vaccine is also inadequate to meet the demand. Will there come a point where supplies are still limited but doctors are allowed to exercise some discretion in deciding who gets the vaccine? I’m never going to fit into an endangered age group - I’m over 24 and under the 65 and over group that usually gets priority - so the only way I’m going to move up the list is if my doctor is allowed to use her knowledge of my health history to make a judgment call.

You see why the idea of having the entire health care system run by the government makes me nervous.

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