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Atkinson and Lawson on H1N1 Vaccine

Yesterday, Dr. Bill Atkinson, president and CEO, and Dr. West Lawson, chief medical officer, partnered to send a message to WakeMed’s 7,600 employees about H1N1. The email encouraged everyone to get vaccinated for H1N1and is applicable to health care workers and the community alike.  Excerpts from follow…

 Dr. West Lawson on H1N1LawsonWest

The H1N1 flu is unlike any strain of influenza we have seen in decades.  It is affecting patients who are not normally hit this hard with the flu, and it is making them sicker than the typical seasonal flu virus.  In fact, we have seen numerous cases across North Carolina where otherwise healthy individuals have become critically-ill due to H1N1.

As health care providers, we are at greater risk for contracting the flu.  In addition, because we are a tertiary referral hospital, the patients we see are more acutely ill than at most health care facilities, making them more likely to suffer significant complications from the flu.  For these reasons, it is more important for us than most health care workers to protect ourselves and one another from H1N1. 

Many people may be concerned that the H1N1 vaccine is “new” and there is not significant scientific data on its long-term effects.  The truth is that the H1N1 vaccine is produced exactly the same way the seasonal flu vaccine is produced every year.  It is simply a new virus strain.  In fact, had H1N1 struck this country earlier than this spring, the H1N1 strain probably would have been included as part of this year’s seasonal flu shot.  Still, understanding that some Americans have concerns about “new” vaccines, the National Institutes of Health and the vaccine manufacturers have conducted more rigorous tests on the H1N1 vaccine than they do on other flu vaccines, and there have been no red flags from these clinical trials.

I got the H1N1 vaccine this year because I don’t want to get H1N1 – it is a particularly debilitating strain of flu that I don’t want to experience.  More importantly, if I don’t get sick, I can’t get my co-workers, patients or children sick.  I encourage all staff, physicians, volunteers and community members to get vaccinated against H1N1 and the seasonal flu if you haven’t already.