Flu vaccinations: How many do you need?

By Britt Harvey

Juliana Pari administers the H1N1 vaccine to a patient. Photo: Kim Mackrael

As he waited outside Tom Brown arena for his H1N1 vaccine, Lloyd Greene smoked a cigarette and stomped his feet impatiently.

“I just hate waiting,” he said. “I’m an impatient man.”

The 68-year-old thought that his H1N1 vaccine would be enough to keep him in good health all winter long. But Greene may need to wait in line for a second flu shot this year.

Dr. Earl Brown, a University of Ottawa virologist, stressed that since the H1N1 vaccination does not guard against the seasonal flu, Ottawans should be prepared to get both shots.

“The H1N1 vaccine does not give you much protection against the seasonal flu. It is not something that you should count on,” he said. “The H1N1 high risk groups are the young, with the seasonal flu it is the 65 and over that are in more danger of dying.”

This was news to Greene.

“I didn’t know that I would need two shots. All I’ve been hearing about is the H1N1. This just means I’m going to have to do this all over again.”

Greene is one of many Ottawans who have lined up anxiously in clinics over the past weeks. However, according to Chief Public Health Officer Dr. David Butler-Jones, the mortality rates of H1N1 are no worse than the seasonal flu.

Though Brown is unsure when exactly we can expect an outbreak of seasonal flu, he has already begun to see the first signs that it is on its way.

“These things are cyclical. The seasonal flu does not ever really go away,” he explained. “As it appears that H1N1 has started to crest, the seasonal flu may come up to fill these gaps. We have already seen some cases of the seasonal flu in the last week, this is usually the first indication.”

As for Lloyd Greene, he said he’s not looking forward to coming back to get his flu shot, but accepts that it’s just all a part of the process.

“We’ve all got to wait our turn I guess. I don’t plan on kicking the can anytime soon so I guess I’ll just have to bite the bullet.”


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