, Salem, MA


December 17, 2009

Letter: Why it's still important to get H1N1 flu vaccine

To the editor:

H1N1 continues to be in the news on a daily basis.

Currently most of Asia is experiencing intense H1N1 activity. Here in the U.S., we are still seeing abnormally high levels of swine flu hospitalizations and deaths as compared to past flu seasons. However, recent statistics indicate that swine flu has reached peak levels and is slowly declining in our area. Nevertheless, this does not diminish the importance of getting immunized. Like other pandemics, the virus is known to have periods of "waxing and waning" and when it returns, it may be in a more virulent form. Therefore, it is important to not be caught off guard.

Getting vaccinated will protect you from this disease now and through the coming spring when it is most likely to peak again. Vaccination not only protects you, but also others who are unable to be immunized because of age (less than 6 months) or diseases and conditions for which the vaccine is contraindicated. In other words, the more people who are vaccinated means that there are fewer people to transmit the disease to others. This is how smallpox was eradicated worldwide.

Since immunizing the public against disease is a primary mission of boards of health, Salem has been preparing to hold large clinics for those at greatest risk. Following CDC and state DPH guidelines, and working with the North Shore-Cape Ann Emergency Preparedness Coalition, as well as local school administrators, nurses and volunteers, the Salem Board of Health offered its first large-scale clinic at Salem High School last week. Nearly 1,000 residents ages 6 months to 24 years were immunized along with all previously defined target groups. Both injectable and nasal vaccine was available. As it can be delivered quickly, easily and painlessly, the nasal mist was administered to healthy individuals, 2 to 24 years old. This form of the vaccine is safe and effective and, in fact, all of Mayor Kim Driscoll's three children received the nasal mist without a cringe.

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