By Eric Villanueva ’11
Is there a doctor in the house? Or better yet a vaccine?
With nationwide shortages of both the H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines and confirmed H1N1 flu cases rising, Brophy students are on the hunt for the precious vaccines.
The vaccines are now slated to be given Dec. 1.
Mollen Immunization Clinics originally planned to offer both H1N1, or swine flu, and seasonal flu vaccines for students and faculty at Brophy Oct. 21.
However, Brophy was still waiting on the clinic to receive enough doses of vaccines until recently, said Dean Mr. Jim Bopp.
“We have to wait our turn for the vaccines to show up,” Mr. Bopp said. “As soon as they get the vaccine we will move ahead with the clinic, but they have no estimate.”
In a letter on Brophy’s Website Nov. 17, Principal Mr. Bob Ryan announced a clinic for students and faculty on Dec. 1. Parents and students are directed to register for the clinic online at www.flushotusa.com.
The clinic is only open to Brophy students and faculty.
Mollen Clinics holds clinics at many schools, public and private, around the state, and Brophy is in line with all those other schools, Mr. Bopp said.
The root of the problem is found in the lower-than-expected growth of the vaccine inside chicken eggs, according to a Washington Post report.
Vaccine manufacturing begins when the World Health Organization obtains the new strain of the flu. Between discovery of new strain and approval of vaccine, it is six months before the vaccine is released to the public, according to the World Health Organization.
For the past 50 years, scientists have grown the virus in chicken eggs. After two weeks of incubation, a weakened virus is bottled as the vaccine.
Immune cells in the human body learn the chemical structure of the virus and the infected cell of the vaccine so they are able to recognize and destroy virus-infected cells.
When the clinic finally comes to Brophy, vaccines will be available for everyone who wants them, and the government-owned H1N1 vaccine will be free of charge, except for a small administrative fee.
This fee may be between $8 to $22, but those with insurance and patients at public health clinics will not be charged, according to an ABC report.
Although some patients may not be charged for the vaccine, the availability of the seasonal flu vaccine is in question.
Manufacturers have focused their attention and energy on manufacturing the H1N1 vaccine, and the seasonal flu vaccine has been put on the back burner as a result.
Meanwhile, absentee rates have returned to normal from early October’s spike of “eight to 10 percent of the student population on any given day,” Mr. Bopp said.
Nationwide, as of Oct. 18, there have been 160,129 reported cases of H1N1 and more than 1,700 confirmed deaths as of Nov. 10, according to the World Health Organization and the European Centre for the Disease Prevention and Control.
As far as tracking the spread of H1N1 at Brophy, there are no real statistics, Mr. Bopp said.
“It’s hard to say because (there are no) exact diagnostics in terms of what’s H1N1 versus regular flu versus other symptoms that look similar,” he said.
Coughing, headaches, fatigue and fever are shared symptoms of the H1N1 and seasonal flu, and the severity of these symptoms differs on an individual basis.
Pregnant women, children under 18 and people with chronic illnesses are all at high-risk of contracting the disease and suffering from numerous complications and death.
This means the entire student population fits into at least one of the high-risk groups.
Those students with chronic illnesses, like asthma, may not want to wait for the clinic.
“Students with chronic illnesses or any questions should visit their personal physician,” Mr. Bopp said.
Mr. Bopp said Brophy is bracing for the predicted second wave of H1N1 in December and the appearance of the seasonal flu in January and February with expected rises in absentee rates again.
“We always have rises (in absentee rates) once the seasonal flu comes around,” Mr. Bopp said.
With President Obama’s emergency declaration Oct. 24, more resources have been freed and devoted to vaccinating the public against the two flu strains.
Until the clinic, Brophy is moving ahead with business as usual, Mr. Bopp said.