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September 22, 2009

The H1N1 Vaccine: Who Receives Priority?

The federal government has issued these guidelines for who should be “first in line” to receive vaccinations for H1N1 influenza, also known as swine flu. But a George Mason University researcher is questioning the priority status that has been given to certain demographic groups.

In this article at Stats.org, researcher Rebecca Goldin challenges the reasoning behind the federal guidelines for H1N1 vaccination. She writes:

We should not be asking, “how likely is someone to die if they get the virus?” but rather, “how can we minimize the deaths due to the flu?” And for that, it is important to look at the way the virus spreads through the population.

… The people most likely to spread the disease to others in their age groups are children aged 5-19. These kids should be the main targets for immunization. They are already on the “first serve” list of the CDC, along with other groups that are not the main viral-dispensers.

But who do children aged 5-19 spread H1N1 to? Adults aged 30-39. And through these adults, the virus spreads to other adults aged 25 and older. In other words, as a group, adults aged 30-39 are among the most vulnerable to the virus.

This is directly in contrast with CDC recommendations, which place young children and immuno-depressed adults of all ages before this (adults 30-39) group.