At the University of Chicago Pediatric Clinic on Tuesday, Diane Brogan jumped at the opportunity to get her 6-year old son, Liam, vaccinated against swine flu when he came in for his check-up.
"They told me that it was available so I said, 'great, better safe than sorry'," Brogan said of her son receiving the nasal spray form of the vaccine. "Liam's very happy that it was not a shot," she added.
Asked how the vaccination went, Liam replied, "It tickled a lot."
In Omaha, at the Nebraska Medical Center, father Robert Wright received a similar offer for his son Rosean. Rosean, who turned 4 years old on Tuesday, got an unexpected birthday present when he was chosen as one of only a few dozen kids at Omaha's pediatric clinic to be offered the vaccine. Wright said he was "not concerned about him getting it," adding that his son was "very excited about it."
Not all parents are as confident as Brogan and Wright when it comes to the safety of the new influenza vaccine, which a select few centers across the country rolled out this week. But as the novel version of the flu continues to spread throughout most of the nation, health officials insist that the formulation is safe. Meanwhile, vaccine programs are moving forward in many states as more than 2 million doses of the nasal spray vaccine become available for use.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Tuesday that all 50 states have ordered their allotments of available H1N1 vaccines. At least six states with widespread or regional swine flu have begun giving out the vaccine to health care workers and children between the ages of 2 and 4.
The vaccine programs have only had access thus far to the live-attenuated nasal spray, which is only suitable for healthy individuals between the ages of 2 and 49. But on Tuesday the CDC announced that the injectable form, suitable for both healthy and higher risk individuals such as infants 6 months to 2 years old, pregnant women, the elderly and those with preexisting conditions, will become available starting next week. The CDC expects to have 10 to 15 million doses of nasal or injectable vaccine available for distribution each week.
CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said at a Tuesday briefing that the continued rollout of the vaccine will be "a little bit of a messy process," with each state being notified on a day-to-day basis how much vaccine will be made available to them. But, he added, "This is the best way to get the vaccine out as soon as it becomes available."
In his weekly briefing, Frieden emphasized the importance of the vaccine in combating this pandemic.
"At this point, swine flu has affected 5 to 10 percent; that leaves 90 to 95 percent of the population that's still susceptible," he said. "We can't predict what the future will hold, [but] we know that vaccination is our best tool to reduce the impact of flu.
"My children will get it, other public health and societal leaders and experts will get it... It's something that we have a high degree of confidence in."