Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments

Audio: ACP President: Not Enough Americans Have Been Vaccinated Against H1N1 Flu

stubbsOver 10,000 Americans (mostly young) have already died of H1N1 flu, and yet we’ve only vaccinated 10-20% of those who need protection. January 10-16 is National Influenza Awareness Week, and the American College of Physicians is doing its part to raise awareness of the ongoing need to protect Americans from the next wave of influenza.

I interviewed ACP President, Dr. Joseph Stubbs, about the current influenza season and Americans’ vulnerabilities to the virus. Please enjoy the audio of our conversation or read the transcript below.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Dr. Val: I think a lot of Americans feel that the major push for flu vaccine is over. How many Americans do you estimate are still unvaccinated against H1N1 flu?

Dr. Stubbs: Only 10-20% of at-risk individuals have gotten the H1N1 vaccine so far. We really need people to get vaccinated as soon as possible in order to avoid a deadly increase in illness during the next wave of influenza.

Dr. Val: What have we learned about the virulence of this H1N1 strain?

Dr. Stubbs: So far the H1N1 virus has infected about 45 million Americans, resulting in 200,000 hospitalizations and 10,000 deaths. Most of these deaths have occurred among young people, which is particularly tragic.

Dr. Val: How does the death rate of the H1N1 virus compare to the regular seasonal flu?

Dr. Stubbs: So far the H1N1 virus is killing about the same number of people that the seasonal flu kills, but the H1N1 has a predilection for the young, and pregnant women.

Dr. Val: Is the death rate from flu additive this year – meaning, are the H1N1 and seasonal flu viruses together killing twice as many people?

Dr. Stubbs: Absolutely. The next few months we could see a bump in the seasonal flu and a resurgence in the H1N1 virus. But both are preventable with vaccines.

Dr. Val: How have we done with seasonal flu vaccine rates this year?

Dr. Stubbs: We’re on track to get about 30% of the population vaccinated against the seasonal flu. The one silver lining in the 2009 flu season is that the H1N1 virus brought a lot of focused media attention to the importance of vaccination and the dangers of influenza.

Dr. Val: Are there still vaccine shortages in certain pockets across the country?

Dr. Stubbs: There are. We have enough supply now but the distribution process has slowed things down. In my region in Georgia, the amount of supply has increased dramatically in the last few weeks and I hope that’s indicative of what’s happening across the country.

Dr. Val: Who should get vaccinated now?

Dr. Stubbs: For the seasonal flu, young women, pregnant women, those with chronic diseases, and people over age 65 are the main targets. For H1N1, pregnant women, children and young adults under the age of 25, those with chronic diseases between the ages of 25 and 64. I think that if you have a chronic medical condition, no matter what your age, you ought to be vaccinated with both the H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines. Healthcare professionals and their staff should also get both vaccines so they don’t spread the flu to patients.

Dr. Val: What’s your goal for vaccination of at-risk populations? I know we’re only at 10-20% vaccination rates now…

Dr. Stubbs: I like to set the bar high. My goal is 80-100%. The government regrets the slow start we got with vaccine supply and they’re doing all they can to get people vaccinated now. If we can get more people vaccinated we can avert problems in the coming months and even in the coming years.

Dr. Val: What’s your take home message for Americans entering this new year?

Dr. Stubbs: You can stay healthy by getting vaccinated.

***

Vaccination Resources from the American College of Physicians


You may also like these posts

Read comments »


Comments are closed.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »