Ask Away! Stamford Hospital's Chief of Infectious Diseases Available to Answer Your Questions About Swine Flu.

Dr. Michael F. Parry

Long story short... a few weeks ago I posted a little something about my frustration with finding the H1N1 vaccine in Fairfield County and WOW it generated quite a response both here and on FCC's Facebook Fan Page. Turns out I wasn't the only one feeling frustrated!

After the post appeared (you can read it here), I also started receiving emails and phone calls from readers with comments and questions about Swine Flu. I'm no expert and in no way felt equipped to answer these complicated questions, so I was thrilled when I was contacted by Dr. Michael F. Parry, Chief of Infectious Diseases at Stamford Hospital for more than 30 years.  He got wind of the discussion here and he felt it was important to address the concerns that we as mothers are facing.

I interviewed Dr. Parry a few weeks ago and the transcript is below. I hope you find his insight as helpful as I did. Dr. Parry is willing to answer your questions regarding Swine Flu so please email them directly to me at fairfieldcountychild@gmail.com and I'll forward them on to him and post his answers here. Finally, a big thank you to Dr. Parry for his time and concern. 

A lot of info has been going around regarding the H1N1 vaccine. For instance questions about rushing the process of developing vaccine has affected the safety, or the amount/ dosage needed is still not clear, or there is thimerosal in the vaccine and is that not safe. Bottom line, is the vaccine safe? Especially with regards to pregnant women and young children or the elderly population. 

Dr. Parry: The H1N1 vaccine is made by the same manufacturing companies in the same way that the seasonal flu vaccine is made; it is not a different process. New viruses can appear each year so they try to anticipate what strains should be in the vaccine. The flu vaccine is made in eggs and it takes 4 to 6 months to make; they usually start in May or June. First doses are distributed usually 2 to 3 months later and the vaccine will come out a little at a time. 

Thimerosal is used as a preservative in some vaccines. And although concerns have surfaced over the past few years about the use of thimerosal in vaccines, there are no studies suggesting that very small amounts of thimerosal are dangerous. 

Pregnant women can be vaccinated against the H1N1 flu and should contact their OB/or local Health Department. In fact if you receive the vaccine while you’re pregnant, you will develop antibodies that will be passed to your baby. This is especially important since infants under 6 months cannot get the vaccine. 

Getting the vaccine is also safe for breastfeeding mothers, although you may prefer to have the H1N1 "flu shot". If you’re breastfeeding, the antibodies you develop may pass through to your child when you are breastfeeding. 

With regards to the older population, those 65 or older are not considered a high risk group. A similar strain of the H1N1 virus appeared in 1918. So those people born in the 1920’s and 1930’s are considered to be less vulnerable since they have already been exposed to the virus and have developed antibodies that increase their defense against the flu.

What is the difference between injectable versus nasal vaccine?

Dr. Parry: There are two kinds of 2009 H1N1 vaccines being produced: 

The H1N1 "flu shot" is an inactivated vaccine (containing killed virus) that is given with a needle, usually in the arm. The flu shot is approved for people 6 months of age and older, including healthy people, people with chronic medical conditions and pregnant women. The flu shot may have trace amounts of the preservative thimerosal. 

The H1N1 nasal spray flu vaccine is given via a nasal sprayer – this vaccine does not contain thimerosal or other preservatives. It is licensed for people from 2 through 49 years of age who are not pregnant and do not have certain health conditions.

When and where is the H1N1 vaccine going to be available to FFC residents?

Dr. Parry: Many pediatricians and obstetricians have agreed to provide the vaccine to their patients when it becomes available. Please call your doctor to see if you can receive the vaccine through their office.

Or see below for a listing of health departments by town that may have the vaccine available for certain groups.

Norwalk, New Canaan: http://norwalkhealthdept.org/whatsnew.htm
Westport, Weston, Wilton: http://www.wwhd.org/H1N1.htm
Stamford, Darien: http://www.cityofstamford.org/content/25/52/140/214/364/default.aspx
Fairfield, Easton: http://www.fairfieldct.org/health.htm
Bridgeport: http://ci.bridgeport.ct.us/newdepartments/health/default.aspx
Stratford: http://www.townofstratford.com/content/1302/402/615/default.aspx

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