The annual ritual of fending off the flu is more complicated than usual this fall as Americans weigh the opportunity to receive two vaccines to protect against different types of influenza.
The vaccine to fight seasonal flu is already widely available to people of all ages and health conditions, although some areas have reported supply delays or shortages. But a new vaccine to protect against the H1N1 virus, commonly known as swine flu, is just starting to make its way to schools, public-health departments and doctors' offices.
But there are hundreds of other respiratory viruses circulating with symptoms that often overlap, and people with mild cases of suspected flu aren't sent for laboratory confirmation of the H1N1 virus, making it impossible to know for sure if they've built immunity, said Dr. Greg Poland, director of the Vaccine Research Group at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. "Because there's no harm in getting the vaccine even if you think you had [swine flu], we err on the side of caution and say you should get the vaccine," Poland said.
Wall Street Journal, by Kristen Gerencher, 10/19/09