H1N1 vaccine shortage stalls U. distribution


The federal government released the swine flu vaccine earlier last week for public distribution.

But the University has not yet received its portion, said Executive Director of University Health Services Melodee Lasky in an e-mail sent out Friday to the University.

"At this time, we do not know when we will receive the vaccine," she said. "We are working closely with the New Jersey and Middlesex County health departments to ensure that we receive the 40,000 doses we requested, but it is important to note that it is likely that we will receive limited supplies initially with more to follow at intervals through December."

The University has been approved as a vaccinator site, she said.

A lot of hysteria has surrounded the potential pandemic of the H1N1 virus this season, and controversy has followed its vaccine.

"As with the seasonal influenza vaccines, the 2009 H1N1 vaccines are being produced in formulations that contain thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative, and in formulations that do not contain thimerosal. People with severe or life-threatening allergies to chicken eggs, or to any other substance in the vaccine, should not be vaccinated," according to the Federal Drug Administration Web site. "Potential side effects of the H1N1 vaccines are expected to be similar to those of seasonal flu vaccines."

Regardless of side effects, the FDA approved the vaccine on Sept. 15, according to its Web site.

The vaccine, which is available as a nasal mist or an injectable syringe, will be provided to people age 65 and younger first, according to the Centers of Disease Control Web site.

"We could determine that younger people particularly did not have any built-in immunity and that some populations are really at risk," said Beth Bell, associate director for Science at the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease.

People in high-risk groups, including college students, pregnant women and people with lung diseases, represent these populations, Bell said.

The injectable syringe, which is composed of inactivated virus, is recommended for pregnant women, people with lung disease and others who have compromised immune systems and cannot handle being infected with the live virus nasal spray, according to the CDC Web site.

But many students on campus do not seem to be concerned with vaccinating themselves this fall.

"I'm skeptical on the whole vaccine," said University alumna Doris Wang. "I'm not sure if it is overhyped or how serious it is ... but I haven't gotten the flu vaccine the past few years, why this year?"

Tu Ho, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, said the hype regarding H1N1 deterred him from considering the vaccine.

"A lot of people stretch [the truth]," he said. "You need to get your facts right."

Lasky said the H1N1 vaccine and seasonal flu vaccines are very similar, expect the former targets a different influenza strain, namely H1N1.

Likewise, the H1N1 vaccine will cause the recipient to feel flu-like symptoms, just as the seasonal vaccine does.

"I'm a little nervous," said Vanessa Palka, a Rutgers College senior. "I had heard from my friend's mom, who had never gotten a flu shot before, that she got really sick. And I have gotten the flu before. I think I would know if I had the flu."

Regardless of popular opinion, some students said they will receive the vaccine when it becomes available.

"I don't want to get sick," said Grace Lee, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student. "I've heard of people [getting sick] in my area, so I feel I should get the vaccine. [Getting swine flu] is going to happen. I just don't want it to be me."


Sara Gretina

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