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H1N1 vaccine coming to a clinic near you

Be patient. Shots aren't widely available just yet.

By Karen Datko Oct 6, 2009 4:32PM

Smart spenders know that one of the keys to sound personal finance is maintaining good health.  With that in mind, here’s some helpful information about the H1N1 vaccine, how you can get immunized, and how much it will cost.

 

The first batch of vaccine -- the nasal mist type -- is being administered this week to health care workers for the most part. That makes sense because we need these folks to stay well. Also, the mist, which takes less time to make, can’t be used to immunize pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions, children under 2, and older folks.

 

As more vaccine -- the shot variety -- becomes available in huge batches starting in mid-October, here’s who will get it first, according to The Washington Post:

Being given top priority for the vaccine are those caring for babies younger than 6 months, health care workers, pregnant women, adults with health problems such as obesity, asthma and diabetes, and everyone 6 months to 24 years old.

More vaccine will be produced each week until everyone who needs or wants protection is immunized.

 

Most people who get swine flu become mildly ill for three or four days. But parents and pregnant women, take note: Reuters reports, "Dozens of children and at least 28 pregnant women in the United States have died from the virus and at least 100 pregnant women were sick enough to be hospitalized in intensive care, the CDC said."

 

Where can you get a shot? The vaccine is being delivered to state health departments, which decide how to distribute it. Some are giving priority to school districts. It also will be available to hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices and other locations. For details, contact your state or local health department. You can also find updates here

 

How much will it cost? The federal government is providing the vaccine for free, but the clinics, doctor's offices and other locations that actually administer the vaccine can charge for the service. If they do -- and many may not -- expect to pay about $20. Some health insurance companies have announced they’ll cover any fee for the shot. In some school districts, including New York City, kids will get the vaccine free of charge.

 

Should you get the vaccine if you’ve already had flu-like symptoms this year? A handy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web page answers that question and many others. It says that "if you were ill but do not know if you had 2009 H1N1 infection, you should get vaccinated, if your doctor recommends it." For good Q&As that cover related medical issues, check out this article by NBC’s Dr. Robert Bazell, plus this NPR report.

 

Meanwhile, how can you protect yourself from infection? Get plenty of rest and keep your germs to yourself. Specifically:

  • Wash hands frequently, and do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth. Among other precautions, the Catholic Diocese of Fargo recommends not shaking hands during Mass, and says it will be OK to skip the communal wine cup. A cab company in Iowa City, Iowa, is providing hand sanitizer to customers.
  • Even more importantly, a CNN story says, cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough, even if you have to use your sleeve. Miss Manners will forgive you. (And no, you can’t get swine flu from eating pork.)
  • Keep your immune system in good shape. That means getting plenty of sleep and not stressing out.
  • Get a shot for the regular seasonal flu. It won't protect you against swine flu but it will help keep you healthy. 
  • If you’re sick, avoid other folks until 24 hours after your fever is gone.
  • What about a facemask? Not generally recommended, the CDC says, with exceptions provided here in Table One.

Tests for H1N1 are being ordered only for those who are hospitalized. One reason: Too few lab techs. (Consider that a bonus job tip.) "Citing federal statistics, the American Society for Clinical Pathology says that 138,000 new laboratory professionals will be needed nationwide by 2012, but fewer than 50,000 will be trained," U.S. News & World Report says.

 

How interested is the general public in getting a vaccination for H1N1, declared a world pandemic? The New York Times reported that physicians’ offices are swamped with calls. On the other side of the U.S., a poll showed that only half of Californians are concerned about it.

 

Related reading:

Published Oct. 6, 2009

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