University Statements


H1N1 vaccine information and update from Gannett Health Services

5:15 p.m., Oct. 19, 2009

Dear members of the Cornell community:

The first, limited, shipment of H1N1 influenza vaccine arrived at Gannett Health Services late on Friday, Oct. 16. Following CDC guidelines for situations in which vaccine supplies are limited, these initial doses will be targeted to STUDENTS at greatest risk of complications from the flu, including: those with underlying health conditions, those who are pregnant, and/or those who care for infants under 6 months old. These students should call Gannett this week to schedule an appointment (607 255-5155).

Students with no underlying health conditions, and faculty and staff members, are not eligible to be vaccinated with this first limited supply (only 1,600 doses). As vaccine becomes widely available in the coming weeks, all members of the community wishing to be vaccinated should have access to the vaccine at Cornell or from area health care providers.

We understand the need for clear and timely information about the availability of seasonal and H1N1 vaccine, including schedules for clinics and appointments. Please review the specific priorities and plans for vaccination that are described in the continuation of this message. Whenever we have new information, we will provide it on the Cornell flu page (www.cornell.edu/flu), the Gannett web site (www.gannett.cornell.edu), and through announcements in the Cornell Chronicle and PawPrint.

We at Gannett are strong proponents of influenza vaccination as the best way to reduce your own risk of illness and protect those who are not able to get vaccinated. We are committed to delivering H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines to the campus as expeditiously as possible. We ask for your patience as we juggle the unpredictability of supply related to two different vaccines, competing demands of preventing illness and treating those who are sick, priorities related to identified risks, and concerns of individual members of our community.

H1N1 INFLUENZA UPDATE

There is no doubt that your vigilance and thoughtfulness are making a difference in reducing spread of the virus in our community. The number of students with H1N1 influenza has dropped dramatically since the early weeks of the semester. At Gannett, we have been diagnosing 5 to 10 students per day for the past couple of weeks (as compared to 50 to 100 during in early September). Levels of illness in the communities surrounding Cornell are also reported to be low.

However, influenza now is widespread in most of the United States, with illness levels far exceeding what is typical for this time of year. Almost all of the flu identified so far has been caused by the new H1N1 influenza virus, which continues to cause mild to moderate illness in most people; but as we know too well, in some it is responsible for complications, severe illness, even death. Of particular concern is the higher incidence of flu and serious flu complications among children and young adults.

Flu is notoriously unpredictable in its impact on individuals and communities, but we anticipate one or more further H1N1 spikes this academic year, as well as seasonal flu during the typical January through April 'flu season'.

What is predictable is that the efforts made by individuals to reduce the risk of illness benefit the whole community. We urge all members of the Cornell to community to:

  • Continue to practice careful hygiene, washing hands and covering coughs and sneezes; do not touch your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands; do not share cups or smoking devices with others.
  • Stay out of circulation when you are sick with a flu-like illness to recover your health and protect the health of others.
  • Consult with a health care provider if you have underlying health conditions that put you at higher risk of complications from the flu or if you develop any concerning symptoms when you are sick.
  • Get vaccinated.

INFLUENZA VACCINE INFORMATION FOR THE CORNELL COMMUNITY

Seasonal flu vaccine

Production and distribution delays have contributed to spot shortages of seasonal flu vaccine. We are in one of those "spots." The CDC has announced that more seasonal flu vaccine will be available before seasonal flu viruses are expected to be widely circulating in the U.S. Gannett will provide information about the availability of flu vaccine whenever we have news to report.

In the meantime, seasonal FluMist (nasal spray) is available now:

  • by appointment at Gannett (call 607 255-5155)
  • at a Seasonal Flu Mist clinic at the Vet School Atrium: Thursday, October 22, noon to 4 (bring Cornell ID)
  • free to Cornell students, staff, and faculty; $30 for student spouses and same-sex partners.

FluMist is a good option for people between the ages of 2-49 who do not have underlying health conditions. Pregnant women and people with health challenges, such as asthma, diabetes, and immune suppressing conditions should not get FluMist.

H1N1 flu vaccine

The CDC is "very confident" there will be a sufficient supply of H1N1 vaccine for everyone who wants it - eventually. The manufacture and testing of influenza vaccine is complex, so a precise schedule for delivery to states or local health care providers is not available. However, deliveries have begun and are expected to increase in number and size through the fall.

Gannett Health Services expects to receive multiple deliveries of H1N1 vaccine over the coming weeks and months. We are unlikely to have much advance notice about delivery dates, quantities, or formulation of the vaccine (shot or nasal mist). Therefore, we have prepared multiple approaches for delivering vaccine to accommodate these variables and vaccinate members of our community as efficiently and conveniently as possible.

The CDC gives high priority to vaccinating young adults against H1N1. As the primary care provider for Cornell students, Gannett will focus first on vaccinating students. br /> We will continue to order H1N1 vaccine supplies until every member of the Cornell community who wants the vaccine has the opportunity to receive it, but we are unable to predict how much we will be able to get or how long it will take to get it. In the meantime, we encourage faculty, staff, and student spouses / domestic partners to seek vaccination through their personal physicians or local health department. Non-exempt employees may consult with their supervisors to arrange for up to two hours of release time to get a flu vaccine. Parents should seek vaccination of children through pediatricians and schools. County health departments will announce H1N1 vaccination clinics in local media and on their web sites (links and phone numbers are provided at the end of this message).

Following CDC guidelines for situations in which vaccine supplies are limited, the first doses we receive will go to health care and emergency workers and students at greatest risk of complications from the flu: students who are pregnant; students who have chronic medical conditions; students who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age. We are attempting to contact students we know fall into these categories, but some students may not be known to us or may be hard to reach. We encourage all students in these categories to call Gannett between 8:30 and 5 (607 255-5155) to schedule an appointment to receive H1N1 vaccine.

The next priority for vaccination by Gannett will be the remaining students under 25 years of age.
Student spouses / domestic partners under 25 or at higher risk who are unable to get vaccinated elsewhere also will be eligible.

Once demand has been met among the student priority groups, Gannett will offer the vaccine in this order (per CDC recommendations):

  • first to faculty and staff members up to age 64 who have underlying health conditions or are pregnant.
  • next to members of the Cornell community age 25 to 64 with no underlying health conditions.
  • then to those 65 and older, whose risk for infection with H1N1 influenza is less than in younger age groups (in contrast to the experience with seasonal flu).

Cornellians at the NYSAES in Geneva: Gannett will conduct an H1N1 vaccine clinic in Geneva when adequate supplies are available. Students who are at higher risk of complications from the flu and those under 25 years of age should consider scheduling an appointment at Gannett during a visit to the Ithaca campus or through Geneva area public health clinics.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

  • Vaccination is the best defense against the flu.This year you will need two vaccines: one for protection against H1N1 flu, one against seasonal flu. Getting either of these vaccines is not likely to help or hinder your defenses against the other flu, so we recommend both.
  • If you have had a flu-like illness in the past six months, but do not know for sure that you had the H1N1 virus (that is, if you are not one of the relatively few people whose infection with H1N1 was confirmed by a special test performed at a CDC or state laboratory), we urge you to get the H1N1 vaccine. There is no harm in getting the vaccine even if you had H1N1 influenza.
  • The H1N1 vaccine is free for Cornell students, staff, and faculty who are vaccinated by Gannett. The cost of the vaccine itself covered by the federal government; administration costs will be covered by Cornell. Student spouses and domestic partners who meet priorities for distribution may receive the vaccine from Gannett for a $10 administration fee. The vaccine will be free from private physicians as well, though an administration fee may be applied.
  • The H1N1 vaccine is made exactly the same way as the seasonal flu vaccine, by the same companies, in the same production facilities with the same procedures, and with the same (in fact even higher) safety safeguards.
  • Only one dose of H1N1 flu vaccine is required for adults and children 10 years of age and older; younger children require two doses. This is slightly different from CDC's recommendations for seasonal influenza vaccination which states that children younger than 9 who are being vaccinated against influenza for the first time need to receive two doses. Infants younger than 6 months of age are too young to get flu vaccines.
  • Both H1N1 and seasonal influenza vaccines are available in two forms. Both are considered safe and effective.
  • The flu shot is made from a killed influenza virus that is highly purified and broken into tiny pieces. It cannot cause flu but does stimulate the body to produce a protective immune response.
  • The nasal flu mist contains attenuated (or weakened) viruses. It is sprayed into the nose and triggers an immune response. These weakened strains do not cause illness because they have lost disease-causing capacity. (The measles and chicken pox vaccines are also made from a live attenuated virus.) FluMist is not approved for people with asthma, pregnant women, or people with underlying medical conditions.
  • Side effects of the H1N1 influenza vaccine, when they occur, are expected to be similar to those experienced following seasonal influenza vaccine. Side effects of the shot may include soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given, low-grade fever, and/or muscle aches. With flu mist, side effects can include runny nose, headache, sore throat, and cough; fever is uncommon. If these problems occur, they are generally mild, begin soon after the vaccine is given and last 12 days. Serious reactions to vaccines are very rare, especially in comparison to the risk of serious complications from the flu.
  • We are aware that many people have concerns about the safety of the H1N1 vaccine and urge you to review a complete list of side effects and other vaccine safety information at http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/vaccination/vaccine_safety_qa.htm. The safety profile of this vaccine is likely to be very similar to the seasonal flu vaccines, which have excellent safety track records over many years.
  • We recommend getting both the H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines for the best protection against flu this year. You can get them at the same time if you get both as flu shots, or one as a shot and one as mist. If you get both as mist, they should be spaced apart by four weeks.
  • A pregnant woman who gets any type of flu is at higher risk for serious health problems. Compared with people in general who get novel H1N1 flu, pregnant women are at greater risk of serious illness or death. Pregnant women are encouraged to receive both H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccine as soon as they are available. Gannett offers a thimerosal ( preservative) free vaccine for pregnant women.
  • People at higher risk of influenza should also consider getting the one-dose pneumococcal vaccine. Many people who have experienced serious and sometimes fatal complications from H1N1 influenza have also been infected with bacterial pneumonia. Those most at risk include:
    • All adults 65 years of age and older.
    • Anyone 2 through 64 years of age who has a long-term health problem, such as heart disease, lung disease, sickle cell disease, diabetes, alcoholism, cirrhosis, leaks of cerebrospinal fluid or cochlear implant.
    • Anyone 2 through 64 years of age who has a disease or condition that lowers the body's resistance to infection, such as Hodgkin's disease; lymphoma or leukemia; kidney failure; multiple myeloma; nephrotic syndrome; HIV infection or AIDS; damaged spleen, or no spleen; organ transplant.
    • Anyone 2 through 64 years of age who is taking a drug or treatment that lowers the body's resistance to infection, such as long-term steroids, certain cancer drugs, radiation therapy.
    • Any adult 19 through 64 years of age who has asthma.
    • Any adult 19 through 64 years of age who is a smoker.
    This vaccine (available by appointment at Gannett for $50 and from many primary care providers) can be given at the same time as the flu vaccine.

RESOURCES

Janet Corson-Rikert, M.D.
Executive Director
Gannett Health Services