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Health officials anticipate swine flu vaccine

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Health officials are already preparing for flu season, and they expect to have a vaccine for the novel Type A H1N1 influenza virus, known as the swine flu, in the coming weeks.

Clinical trials for the swine flu vaccine are ongoing with five manufacturers - Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi Pasteur, CSL Biotherapies, and MedImmune - and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, according to Joe Quimby, spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The institute is engaged in clinical testing of vaccines and treatments nationwide at eight institutions, known as Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Units, including Emory University in Atlanta.

Quimby said the H1N1 vaccine would be a voluntarily vaccine program made available to citizens as soon as this fall, concurrent with the typical seasonal flu vaccine.

"The H1N1 vaccine does not protect against the seasonal flu, and the seasonal flu vaccine does not protect against H1N1," said Lisa Marie Shekell, spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Community Health.

According to officials with the Georgia Department of Community Health, both the seasonal flu and H1N1 viruses are typically spread from person to person when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms from both viruses are fever, sore throat, muscle aches, cough, runny nose and extreme fatigue.

Shekell added that the H1N1 virus is affecting a different population than the seasonal flu.

"The recommendations for receiving the seasonal flu vaccine are different from the priority list of those recommended to receive the H1N1 vaccine," she said.

According to the CDC, seasonal flu and swine flu vaccines can be administered on the same day, but the swine flu vaccine is not intended to replace the seasonal flu vaccine.

The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends certain groups of people be included on a priority list of H1N1 vaccine recipients, including pregnant women and health care professionals.

For at least 3 million Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia members, the H1N1 vaccine will be covered along with seasonal flu vaccine, said Cheryl Monkhouse, a Blue Cross spokeswoman. Monkhouse said Blue Cross plans to offer coverage for the administration of the H1N1 vaccine to members whose benefit plans provide vaccine coverage.