In October, Burnham organized a panel to educate the public on the threat posed by the H1N1 strain of influenza (“swine flu”). Here is footage from the panel, available online courtesy of On Tuesday, November 10th, we conducted a live online chat session with Dr. Robert Liddington, key researcher from the Infectious and Inflammatory Disease Research Center at Burnham Institute for Medical Research. The transcript for that chat can be seen below.
1. How safe is the H1N1 shot for toddlers who’re relatively healthy? I’ve heard of a few recent reports of healthy kids becoming gravely ill after the shot.
Dr. Liddington: It’s as safe as the seasonal flu vaccine. There are risks associated with any vaccine, but they are less than the risks of NOT getting the vaccine. However, kids under 2 should not get the nasal spray vaccine.
2. Should women trying to get pregnant be vaccinated?
Dr. Liddington: Everyone should be vaccinated eventually, but women trying to get pregnant are not in a high-risk group unless they have an underlying medical condition.
3. My husband suffers from irregular heartbeat even with meds. At age 58 and in otherwise great condition, is he one of the vulnerable population that should get the vaccine?
Dr. Liddington: Your husband should speak to his doctor about his underlying condition, but at age 58 he is not otherwise in a high risk group.
4. I’m diabetic and can’t seem to be able to find a place that offers the H1N1 flu vaccine. They have people lining up at 6 a.m. for a noon distribution. Any suggestions on getting a vaccine without having to wait hours and hours????
Dr. Liddington: For vaccine-related issues, please visit the links below for the most up to date information. If you are in a high-risk group (diabetic), then your doctor should be able to help in prioritizing you.
5. Is the vaccine covered by insurance companies?
Dr. Liddington: Many insurance companies are covering the cost of the shot. Check with your insurance company for more info.
6. Does it matter in what order you get the seasonal flu vaccine & the H1N1 vaccine? I have heard that one should wait two weeks in between vaccinations.
Dr. Liddington: It does not matter the order you get the vaccines, but you cannot have both live virus vaccines at the same time.
7. Why is the CDC fear mongering when they know this is not a pandemic? They told the states in late July to stop testing for H1N1. In late August it stopped viral typing and sub typing. What are they hiding?
Dr. Liddington: This IS a pandemic as defined by the World Health Organization. The CDC is still monitoring H1N1 seasonal and swine flu. Check the CDC link below for more info.
8. Just as I thought. Will not address the non event in the Southern Hemisphere and points me to the very organizations WHO & CDC who have questionable practices.
Dr. Liddington: Actually, the CDC site has a report on the Southern Hemisphere’s winter flu season. We seem to have a difference of opinion, but I, and all doctors I know, trust the WHO and CDC.
9. Are tests outside of PCR being developed for H1N1 detection that are more rapid or potentially available in the doctor’s office?
Dr. Liddington: Tests are being developed, but they are not available yet in Drs. offices.
10. I have a 1.5 year old child. Do they have the vaccines for children under 2 yet? Is he considered to be the “high risk” category? Am I, considering I am his caregiver?
Dr. Liddington: The standard swine flu shot is available and safe for children over 6 months (the nasal mist vaccine is only recommended for children over 2 years). Both you and your 1.5 year old are in high-risk groups and should be vaccinated.
11. Would you consider a 53 year old woman with Hoshimoto’s disease in the high risk group?
Dr. Liddington: Please check with your doctor and the CDC website for this or any other specific disease information.
12. I noticed some hospitals are adjusting their visitation policies because of the H1N1 anticipated pandemic. Are all Orlando-area hospitals following suit?
Dr. Liddington: Please see the webpage listed below for information on specific Orlando-area hospital info.
13. Dr. Liddington: how protected are children who have received the first dose of the nasal mist vaccine?
Dr. Liddington: Children who have received one dose of the vaccine may have some partial protection, but they MUST get the second dose at about 4 weeks.
14. At what stage of pregnancy is there more concern about any possible adverse effects, if any, of the H1N1 vaccine?
Dr. Liddington: I am not aware of any adverse affects which are more likely at any specific stage of pregnancy.
15. I had H1N1 back in Sept of this year. Can I get it again?
Dr. Liddington: Are you certain it was swine flu and not seasonal flu? If you have any doubt at all, you should get vaccinated against swine flu. If you are certain it was swine H1N1 and not seasonal H1N1, then you are protected against the swine flu. I want to clarify for everyone’s sake, the term “H1N1” is ambiguous since it refers to both a strain of seasonal flu and the swine flu. I expect you mean swine flu, in which case you should get a seasonal flu shot, but are covered for the swine flu.
16. At 67 years of age with bronchitis and asthma do I need the shot?
Dr. Liddington: Check with your doctor in regards to your risk category considering your age.
17. My son had a kidney transplant on 7/27/09, he is 16 months old. I was his donor. I plan to get the H1N1 vaccine, but want to know if he is able to have it because of his immune-suppression status?
Dr. Liddington: Check with your doctor for your specific situation. It is possible that the flu shot could be safe.
18. I have a diabetic + obese sister in the hospital right now on a ventilator for the last 2 1/2 weeks with confirmed H1N1 and pneumonia. She may not make it. This flu is the real deal folks!
Dr. Liddington: Jim, thank you for your message. I wish your sister the best.
19. Children are advised to get two doses, are adults as well?
Dr. Liddington: Adults do NOT need 2 doses. Adults need only 1 dose.
20. What are your thoughts about mandatory H1N1 vaccination for health care workers?
Dr. Liddington: My personal opinion is that all health care workers should be vaccinated unless there is a clear medical contraindication.
21. I’m 28 years old, never been vaccinated as an adult (for anything), and only get sick one week out of every two years or so. What would your advice be to someone like me – this time, is the vaccine necessary?
Dr. Liddington: That’s a good question! You must always bear in mind no matter how healthy you are, if you do get swine flu you could pass it on to others who are at much greater risk. So YES, you should get vaccinated.
22. What about Vitamin D and its link to both flu protection with proper levels and greater susceptibility to colds and flu with low levels?
Dr. Liddington: There is no evidence that vitamin D will protect you against swine flu. Get the shot!
23. A study proving otherwise was published in The Journal of Clinical Lipidology July 2009 without revisions.
Dr. Liddington: Thanks, I’ll read the article with interest. It is possible that Vitamin D may help reduce risk and symptoms, but not as effectively as the vaccine.
24. Have you seen any unusual reactions to the 2009 H1N1 Influenza A, or is it just another type of flu?
Dr. Liddington: The major difference seems to be that the small proportion of otherwise healthy children and young adults are getting very sick and some are dying directly from the flu itself. Also pregnant women seem to be at an unusually elevated risk.
25. If I am correct, if you are not a child, pregnant, caregiver of a child under 6 months, or healthcare worker we are not able to get vaccinated until more become available. Correct? We are basically sitting ducks……
Dr. Liddington: Generating and distributing the new vaccines in the time available has been remarkably efficient, but you are right, not everybody can get vaccinated today. You will have to wait. In the meantime, follow general guidelines for minimizing your chances of contracting the flu
26. Can the swine flu and seasonal flu or any other flu combine in our bodies to create an entirely new flu?
Dr. Liddington: Yes, in principle. And at one time this was a major concern, but currently the swine flu has displaced all the regular seasonal flus. It is possible that this will change as we enter the peak of seasonal flu season.
27. When people die from the swine flu, exactly what is the cause of death? Suffocating?
Dr. Liddington: The actual causes of death differ between individuals. In many cases, the flu leads to a secondary infection which leads to acute respiratory distress. So suffocating is not far off the mark.
28. Even after you do get the vaccine it won’t protect you for a week – 2 weeks right?
Dr. Liddington: Correct, you will not have full protection for at least 2 weeks.
29. Do you have opinion as to why a some healthy individuals become so ill from this particular flu virus?
Dr. Liddington: It’s a very different virus from the seasonal flus and there is some evidence that in certain individuals the virus can infect deeper into the respiratory tract and directly cause lung disease.
30. My wife and I are in our late 30’s and have a 2.5 year old. We are trying to keep him clear of unnecessary vaccines and are concerned about side effects. Do you think the risks posed by the h1n1 flu outweigh the risks posed by the vaccine?
Dr. Liddington: Yes, the risks posed by the flu far outweigh the risks of side effects from the vaccine, especially for a child of 2.5 years.
31. Hi Dr. for those who are HIV+ and under treatment, how imperative is it to be vaccinated?
Dr. Liddington: If your doctor thinks it is safe to be vaccinated, then you should certainly do so.
32. Please post some links that your feel have reliable research on this subject!
– Where to get the vaccine in San Diego: https://www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/sdc/hhsa/programs/phs/pandemic_influenza.html
– Where to get the vaccine in Orlando: http://www.orchd.com/Flu/FluDocuments/ProviderH1N1_10.pdf
– San Diego updates: https://www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/sdc/hhsa/programs/phs/pandemic_influenza.html
– Flu guide for small businesses: www.sba.gov/flu
– Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/
– National Pandemic Flu forum: http://www.avianflutalk.com/
Dr. Liddington: Thank you for all of your questions. I will end by reassuring you that all the evidence points to the new vaccines being safe and effective. And even if you are healthy, you must consider the health of your family, friends, and coworkers.
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[UCF Today: The UCF College of Medicine anchors a new medical city in Lake Nona (Orlando) that has attracted world-class partners such as VA Medical Center, M.D. Anderson, Nemours and Burnham Institute for Medical Research. The message above is courtesy of our friends and neighbors at the Burnham Institute.]