How do I get a pandemic flu H1N1 vaccine?

Well, if you live in most countries, the answer is simple. You don’t. Due to the limited capacity for producing influenza vaccines, most people will never receive one. In most wealthy countries, vaccine will be offered to anyone who wants one. However, finding out when and where to get one may prove a challenge.

In the US, the pandemic flu vaccine is available in two forms, a mist that contains a weakened virus and a shot with killed virus. Due to how it is made, more of the mist vaccine is available now than the killed virus vaccine. However, the mist is only available to people between the ages of 2 and 49. Because it contains live virus, it is not recommended for people with immune system disorders. It is also not recommended for pregnant women. The flu shot is available with or without thimerosol (a preservative containing mercury). Although there is substantial evidence that thimerosol does not cause autism, people who concerned about this can ask for the form without thimerosol.

The US government has placed sufficient orders for the pandemic flu vaccine such that every citizen who wants one can get one, eventually. And eventually may be a long time from now. Although some vaccine is available now, the quantity is small. There are federal guidelines on who should receive the vaccine first, but each State decides how to interpret them. In general, health care workers and pregnant women appear to be receiving them first. In some States, children up to 2 years are getting vaccines. In other States, people up to the age of 24 are eligible to receive vaccines. As more vaccine becomes available, restrictions will loosen and more and more people will be able to get vaccinated.

How do you find out when vaccine will be available in your area? In the US, this is a challenge. Each State has its own system for distributing vaccine. Vaccine may be available from private physicians, pharmacies and public clinics. Some States have information on their Public Health websites giving people specific information on where and when to get vaccinated. Others distribute the vaccine with no publicity. In these States, people who contact their private physicians may find that some vaccine is available for them or their children.

I’ve created a table with the most specific information I can find about how to obtain a pandemic flu vaccine in the United States. It is arranged by State and contains the State Public Health Web site, a phone number (which may be to a vaccine hotline, if available), a State Flu site (which may contain specific locations for vaccines, if available). This table is available at PFI_Main:

US State Vaccine Information

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