Do you need to vaccinate against H1N1 this season?

Unlike last year’s scene in city hospitals where a sense of panic had gripped Bengaluru during the ‘swine flu’ season, this year the city seems more aware about this illness. Also, this year, with the availability of the H1N1 vaccine, many have opted to protect themselves through this.

Though vaccination against H1N1 influenza virus is not compulsory, those with chronic illnesses are advised to take it. Pic Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons.

With the monsoons and winter closing in on Bengaluru, more people are also likely to seek vaccination now. Here is a detailed guide on whether one should get vaccinated, who should get vaccinated and the effects of the vaccine itself.

Is vaccination against H1N1 compulsory?

No, it is not compulsory. However, international recommendations by the Centre for Disease Control, Atlanta and the World Health Organisation (WHO) point to the fact that vaccination is a good method to prevent and control the spread of this disease.

Who should get vaccinated? Is there a particular risk-prone group/ age group?

The H1N1 vaccine is available in all leading hospitals in the city. Vaccines should be taken only on consultation with a doctor.

It is recommended in those individuals with high risk, with underlying systemic diseases such as Diabetes mellitus, chronic kidney diseases, Chronic Lung diseases; extremes of age (below five years and above 65 years). These groups are recommended given that complications of the disease is more. 

In addition to this the infection is usually taken by adults going back from work to home, therein transmitting the infection to such groups. So it is recommended that adults take this to protect the vulnerable groups.

The present nasal vaccine is contraindicated in pregnant women and children below three years. The injectable vaccine can be given only to those above 18 years.

What is the cost of the vaccine? Is it available in all hospitals in Bangalore?

The present Intranasal vaccine costs around Rs 250 and the Injection around Rs 350. It is available at all leading hospitals in the city. There have also been certain vaccination drives undertaken by certain agencies in Bangalore. The vaccine needs to be taken only in consultation with the doctor and not over the counter.

What is the course for this vaccination?

It’s a single dose vaccine. There are two types- intranasal and injectable. The intranasal is a better vaccine due to the fact that it is easy to administer, and also affords protection at the first line of defence – the nasal tract – as this virus enters the body through the nasal tract.

In children who get the vaccine for the first time two pediatric doses are to be administered, with a gap of 28 days for the vaccine to be effective. This is because their immune system is not exposed and a response needs to be boosted.

Is this vaccination for life or required to be taken periodically?

This vaccination is only seasonal. Once vaccinated, the protection afforded is for around a year. However, every season or periodically when a new viral strain of H1N1 appears, the newer vaccine developed needs to be taken as the older vaccine may not afford protection.

If I get this vaccine administered, will it protect me only from H1N1 or other influenza viruses as well?

There are monovalent and polyvalent vaccines.

Monovalent will protect against only H1N1-specific strain. The injectable vaccine is of this type.

Polyvalent protects against both H1N1 and Seasonal influenza virus. At present, there is a polyvalent nasal vaccine being developed in India and will be introduced into the market shortly and which can be given to those aged below three years also.

Is there a particular time of the year when I should get vaccinated from H1N1? Or can I get it any time?

Flu is seasonal so you should wait for the WHO announcement and then take the appropriate vaccine in September or October in preparation for the flu season which lasts from November to February. Once this is past we again await the recommendation.

Prevention is better than cure!

Also read Citizen Matters’ article Swine Flu or A(H1N1): Everything you need to know

What is more important than just vaccination is to raise awareness among the public regarding the disease and the signs which are similar to ‘Flu’ (fever and respiratory symptoms such as cough).

It is important to follow general preventive measures:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you sneeze or cough
  • Dispose off used tissues safely in a covered dustbin
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water
  • Use hand sanitiser to disinfect your hands if soap and water are not readily available
  • Avoid visiting sick friends or relatives suffering from Flu during a flu epidemic
  • If you have flu symptoms avoid going out to places including cinema theatres, shopping malls, bus stands, railway stations and other crowded places, as you may spread the infection to others
  • Stay informed about the current flu scenario
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References

Dr Pretesh R Kiran, Assistant Professor, Community Health, St John’s National Academy of Health Sciences

Dr Satish Amarnath, Medical Services, Manipal Cure and Care Pvt Ltd

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Swine Flu or A(H1N1): Everything you need to know

About Vaishnavi Vittal 139 Articles
Vaishnavi Vittal is a Bangalore-based journalist.

2 Comments

  1. Not only is the vaccine not effective, it is downright dangerous and leaves you with a depressed immune system. In the US they can coerce people to vaccinate because the vaccine companies, the Govermnent and the Doctors are immune to lawsuits since vaccines are outside the purview of the conventional legal system.
    The safest and the only way to protect yourself is to maintain and lead a healthy life. Ayurvedic medicines are very effective in dealing with diseases like the flu.

  2. Thank you for the info. In the US,it is mandatory for all primary caregivers for children and elders to take this; I’d taken my vaccination while taking care of my grand-daughter there.

    The time taken to go and get the vaccination done is an inhibiting factor for most people, so on a voluntary basis, they don’t get it done.

    I feel that if it is made mandatory, the spread of the infection may be retarded to a great extent.

    We need political will for many of our health initiatives.

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