H1N1 update

Who should get vaccinated first

Since we published our H1N1 guide – “Everything you need to know about H1N1” – in the November 2009 issue, the Public Health Agency of Canada has confirmed that the H1N1 vaccine will be ready by November. However, the government has yet to issue a set of guidelines as to who should be first in line to receive it.

Fiona Smaill, an MD and infection expert at McMaster University in Hamilton, suspects that a priority list, once established, will mirror that of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). That list outlines the following target groups:

• pregnant women;
• people who live with or care for children who are less than six months old;
• health care and emergency services workers;
• people between the age of six months and 24 years of age; and
• people between the age of 25 and 64 who have chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems (such as those undergoing cancer treatment)

“First Nations people are another group who are at higher risk for H1N1,” adds Smaill. But while these target groups should receive the vaccine as soon as it becomes available, that doesn’t mean everyone else is off the hook.

“We have a responsibility to ourselves but also to our communities,” says Smaill. “While you may not fall into one of those vulnerable groups, you may come into contact with someone who has a compromised immune system or a new baby.” For that reason, she recommends that everyone get the H1N1 vaccine as soon it becomes widely available.