Some are leery of this year's flu shots

Posted on Sep 30, 2010 in Uncategorized

By Calum McKinney, The (Salisbury, Md.) Daily Times

SALISBURY, Md. — In the wake of last year’s swine flu pandemic, this year’s standard flu shot includes the H1N1 vaccine. That has caused concern for at least some people getting the shots, pharmacists here say.

Manufacturers this year are including the H1N1 antibodies along with those of two other strains in the standard vaccine. Craig Schury, pharmacist for Pemberton Pharmacy in Salisbury, said this has scared some potential customers away.

“People are somewhat leery about it, but it just happens to be one of three strains in this year’s shot,” he said. “It’s made the same way as the regular flu shot was last year.”

Schury said there are normally a mixture of strains in the shots and the majority of his customers weren’t concerned.

He said even though he tries to let his customers know what they are receiving, vaccine providers aren’t required to verbally tell clients they are getting the H1N1 vaccine. But, he said, they are required to provide a written document that lists all the included strains.

Jennifer Berkman, director of student health services for Salisbury University, is having a somewhat different experience. She said students have wanted to know how to get inoculated for the swine flu.

“I think there’s confusion because last year there were two separate shots,” she said. “Epidemiologists look globally at different strains and try to predict which strains are going to impact the U.S. this season.”

Pharmacists said supplies of vaccine were much better this year compared with last year when manufacturers split their vaccine production between the swine flu and regular flu vaccination. Berkman said the experts this year expect swine flu to act as a seasonal outbreak now that the pandemic is over.

“What happened last year was as the virus progressed it got less and less virulent,” she said.

She said the school’s health department had been doing culturing for flu patients and by the end of last year’s season, most of the cultures that were coming back were consistent with swine flu.

Another less well known addition for this year’s vaccinations is a high dose option specifically for people age 65 or over. The high-dose contains roughly four times the amount of antibodies as a regular dose and may have a higher risk of negative reaction. But, pharmacists said, this risk is more than balanced by its benefits, as immune systems tend to weaken with age.

“I get a flu shot every single year,” said 77-year-old Karen Carney, who chose to get the high-dose option this year.

She said most of her peers take getting the immunization for granted and she had no fears about the inclusion of the H1N1 vaccine.