By Sharmina Manandhar
WASHINGTON – Both seasonal flu and 2009 H1N1 flu vaccines may be given to a patient at the same visit, as long as they’re not both in the nasal spray form, health officials said.
The reason for not mixing the two nasal sprays is to ensure optimum immune response, according to Tom Skinner, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public affairs officer. If both vaccines are in spray form, they should be given a month apart.
“The attenuated (weakened) viruses in the vaccine have to infect cells in the nose to cause an immune response,” wrote Skinner in an email message. “It’s believed that if separate viruses were introduced into the nose at the same time then they may compete against each other and result in diminished immune response.”
Both vaccines are also available as injections in which the virus has been killed.
The H1N1 nasal sprays, manufactured by Maryland’s MedImmune, became available almost two weeks ago while the distribution of the shots began this week, according to the CDC.
However, only limited quantities of the shots have arrived in Maryland with “more to come,” according to Karen Black, director of public relations for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Black also said that the department encourages everyone, especially “priority groups,” to get the H1N1 vaccine because 99 percent of the state’s influenza activity is related to H1N1.
The priority group for the H1N1 vaccine includes pregnant women, people who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age, health care and emergency medical services workers, 6-months-to-24-year-olds, and 25-to-64-year-olds with chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems, according to the CDC web site.
Maryland reported its 10th H1N1 flu-related death, “an adult with serious underlying medical conditions from Western Maryland,” Tuesday as well as 217 H1N1 flu-related hospitalizations since June 1, 2009, according to a DHMH press release.
About 890 people have died nationwide due to H1N1 flu, according to Amanda Aldridge, CDC spokeswoman, who also said that the number may be “an underestimation because we rely on states to send us this information.”
Aldridge also recommended getting both seasonal flu and H1N1 vaccines.
“The H1N1 vaccine will not protect against the seasonal flu,” Aldridge said. “They are different flu strain viruses. You will need to get both the seasonal and H1N1 (vaccines) to protect against both viruses.”
Local vaccine campaigns for both seasonal flu and H1N1 flu are being held throughout the state.
The University of Maryland held a free seasonal flu vaccine drill, where shots were provided free to 2,000 people Thursday.
The Montgomery County Health Department held a free H1N1 vaccination clinic providing nasal sprays and injections to priority groups Wednesday.
Mary Anderson, county health department spokeswoman, said that 1,400 H1N1 vaccines were administered in the vaccination clinic, more of which are scheduled in the coming weeks.