Elis hoping to get vaccinated against swine flu who are generally healthy may find themselves out of luck.
A swine flu vaccine is on track to be distributed in mid-October, and college students are among those who should be vaccinated first, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in an interview Friday. But when Yale University Health Services receives the vaccine, it is highly unlikely it will have enough to distribute to everyone who wants it, YUHS Director Paul Genecin said Sunday.
Still, Genecin emphasized that YUHS does not yet know how much vaccine it will be receiving from the Connecticut Department of Health and will determine whom to vaccinate based on the quantity it ultimately receives.
The one hard and fast fact, however, is that “the first groups [to be vaccinated] are pregnant women, children between six months and four years [of age], health-care workers who interact with people who may be infected, and people with immuno conditions,” Genecin said.
Young people up to the age of 24 will hopefully be offered the vaccine, he added.
Sebelius, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Beth Bell, a senior scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, outlined developments in the nation’s H1N1 situation and emphasized college students’ high susceptibility to it.
Sebelius stressed the importance of universities keeping sick students away from others and suggested that each institution put in place “some kind of meal brigade” so that sick students don’t have to go to the cafeteria.
While Yale already has mechanisms in place that accomplish both objectives, the Yale plan relies entirely on student both self-reporting their symptoms and self-isolating until they have recuperated.
“There is no way to enforce [self-quarantine],” Genecin said. “It’s not a law enforcement situation.”
Last week, disposable thermometers made an appearance in residential college entryways, which made it easier for students to find out if they have one tell-tale symptom of the H1N1 virus: a fever. According to the CDC, individuals who find they have a fever greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit should self-isolate as much as possible and contact their healthcare provider.
Bell said the flu season is well underway much earlier than anticipated, adding that much of the increased flu activity is most likely due to the H1N1 virus. Already, 21 states are reporting wide-spread influenza activity “which is pretty much unprecedented,” she said. The greatest flu activity is in the Southeast, she said.
While the H1N1 virus has generally been mild and fatalities have overwhelmingly been among those with underlying conditions, Bell said a lingering danger is that when the normal flu season gets underway, the H1N1 virus may become a more virulent strain as it mixes with the seasonal flu.
With the release of a vaccine still weeks away, Elis can avoid contracting H1N1 in the meantime by frequently washing their hands, sneezing into their sleeves and staying far, far away from anyone who has H1N1.
On Friday, Sebelius advised writers at college newspapers to use the really “great bully pulpit” they have to encourage peers to undertake rudimentary precautions such as washing their hands. It remains unclear whether such bullying is effective.
Yale University Health Services has said it expects the H1N1 virus to sideline at least 40 percent of the Yale population this fall.