Health Services awaits H1N1 vaccine

J.J. Oakley Campus Health Services reports few cases of the H1N1 influenza virus at Tech as they await the vaccine that could be available late this month.Although the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed Tennessee as experiencing a “widespread” outbreak of H1N1, Tech continues to have a small number of cases compared to the campus population.

“We have had 21 confirmed cases [of H1N1] this semester with 115 students being treated for flu-like symptoms or positive flu,” Randy Tompkins, supervisor of Health Services, said. “We are waiting on confirmation of 10 more cases of flu-like symptoms.

“Considering the student population, that’s not bad.”

Because the CDC lists Tennessee as experiencing a “widespread” outbreak, the state is on the short-list to receive the vaccine. There remains no announced date when the vaccine will be available.

However, Memphis and Indianapolis became the first cities to receive the vaccine on a 100-dose trial basis.

“We still estimate that the vaccine will arrive on campus by the end of October,” Tompkins said.

Several medical Web sites raised concern over the use of thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative found in multi-dose vaccine vials. However, the CDC stated that the amount of thimerosal is minimal and no more dangerous than the seasonal flu shot.

“Thimerosal is an important preservative that protects vaccines against potential microbial contamination, which may occur in opened multi-dose vials of vaccine,” the CDC wrote on its Web site.

The CDC cautions certain groups from receiving the vaccine, including people who have severe allergic reactions to chicken eggs, with a severe reaction to the seasonal flu vaccine, who have acquired Guillain-Barré syndrome within six weeks of a flu vaccination, who are less than six months old, or who have a moderate to severe fever.

The U.S. government purchased 250 million doses of the vaccine, ensuring availability for all interested parties, according to the CDC’s Web site.

“The vaccine is provided for free by the federal government,” Tompkins said.

Until the vaccine becomes available, Health Services urges the continuation of illness counter-measures, including using hand sanitizer.

As of press time, WKRN TV reports that two Nashville hospitals, Baptist and Saint Thomas Hospitals, received vials of the vaccines.

For information regarding the H1N1 vaccine, consult the CDC’s Web site, www.cdc.gov.