As the county’s health officer, I would like to share with you some important information about influenza. As the evidence has shown since the emergence of the H1N1 influenza virus in the spring of this year, the new flu is pandemic and is the predominant strain circulating in our community. Each year, influenza results in thousands of deaths in our community, and the H1N1 flu has demonstrated that it affects children, young adults and pregnant women more severely than the general population.
One of the ways to decrease the impact of H1N1 is vaccination, which is the most important because it is by far the most effective action you can take to protect yourself and those around you. Data recently released from clinical vaccine trials of the pandemic H1N1 vaccine demonstrated that 96% of healthy adults 18 to 64 years of age can achieve protective antibody levels as soon as eight to 10 days after vaccination and that the vaccine is highly tolerated, resulting in no significant clinical events.
Vaccines in general are well-accepted by the majority of parents, children and adults because they have an exemplary safety record and have played an important role in eliminating diseases that were once common. Despite the strong opinions of a small minority, it is important to remember that vaccines are required to meet high safety standards, and there are no data to support that they cause harm.
A vaccine to prevent pandemic H1N1 influenza will be available by next month and will be recommended for all persons 6 months through 24 years of age; persons who live with or care for infants less than 6 months of age; pregnant women; healthcare workers and emergency services personnel; and persons 25 through 64 years of age with medical conditions that put them at high risk for complications if they get influenza. It is crucially important that people in the recommended groups take advantage of this life-saving public health intervention when the vaccine becomes available.
Jonathan E. Fielding
Director, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health